Volvo opens new proving ground as it ramps up pitch for ‘crash-free future’

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Volvo Cars’s new proving ground features numerous facilities that simulate real-world conditions—like city centers or soaked highways.

Volvo Cars’s new proving ground features numerous facilities that simulate real-world conditions—like city centers or soaked highways.

FROM a company that declared a self-imposed goal of having no person killed or seriously injured in one of its products by the time 2020 rolls in comes the opening of a new proving ground.

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Called AstaZero (for Active Safety Test Area), Volvo Cars said the new facility is the world’s first full-scale proving ground designed for future traffic safety solutions. The focus of AstaZero, located close to Volvo Cars’s headquarters in Sweden, is in the development of active safety systems meant to prevent accidents.

Volvo said that one of the facility’s assets is its flexibility, with a design that permits the construction of unique, customized environments. AstaZero can simulate a wide range of test conditions like busy city roads, highways, multi-lane motorways and crossroads. The carmaker said this is crucial for studying the way cars interact with moving obstacles such as pedestrians, cycles, mopeds, motorcycles, trucks, buses, animals and, of course, other cars. In certain studies like those involving complex traffic situations and high speeds, robots will operate the test vehicles.

“You can simulate all types of real-world traffic scenarios,” said Peter Wallin, chief executive at AstaZero. “At most proving grounds, the options are more limited.”

Anders Axelson of Volvo Cars Safety Center added that safety testing under realistic circumstances is a “prerequisite for developing active safety systems.”

“The facility will play several important roles. Not only will it help us meet our safety vision of developing cars that don’t crash, it will also help us further develop safety functions that will address non-motorists, such as pedestrians and cyclists,” Axelson said.

Volvo said that among AstaZero’s functions will be to serve as a platform for the research and development of next-generation safety technologies. In collaboration with universities and industry partners, the company will also test autonomous driving technology.

AstaZero sits on a 2,000,000 square-meter area that has a paved surface of 250,000 square-meters. Encircling it is a 5.7-kilometer highway connected to a four-block city environment. It also features a high-speed area, a 700-meter, four-lane road, and a rural road with two T-junctions and a crossroad with signage.

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