Volvo Cars approaches crash-free future with opening of AstaZero proving ground
AstaZero is the world’s first full-scale proving ground for future traffic safety solutions. Its opening has brought Volvo Car Group a step closer to realizing their vision that by 2020 no one should be killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo car.
An important measure towards achieving this goal will be the development of active safety systems, which will help to prevent accidents. These active safety systems will be the primary focus at AstaZero proving ground, located in close proximity to the Volvo Cars headquarters in western Sweden.
One of the facility’s greatest assets is its flexibility, with a design that permits the construction of unique, customized environments. As Pether Wallin, CEO of AstaZero says, “You can simulate all types of real-world traffic scenarios. At most proving grounds, the options are more limited.”
The centre can accommodate a wide range of test conditions, such as those found on busy city roads, highways, multi-lane motorways and crossroads. These conditions are crucial for studying the way cars interact with moving obstacles such as other cars, pedestrians, cycles, mopeds, motorcycles, trucks, buses and even animals that suddenly appear. In certain studies, e.g. those involving complex traffic situations and high speeds, robots will operate the test vehicles.
“Safety testing under realistic circumstances is a prerequisite for developing our active safety systems,” says Anders Axelson of Volvo Cars Safety Centre. He continues: “The facility will play several important roles: not only will it help us meet our safety vision, 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.”
Research and development
One of AstaZero’s main functions will be as a platform for the research and development of next-generation safety technologies. Here, in collaboration with universities and industry partners, Volvo Cars will undertake a range of initiatives, from strategic vehicle research and innovation projects to targeted research projects.
The work at AstaZero will also include the development and testing of autonomous driving technology, an intelligent driver support system designed to reduce accidents while improving the driving experience. Advanced systems are also under progress to further help prevent, for example, inattentiveness and driver fatigue.
Although meeting their target date of 2020 may be an ambitious goal, Volvo Cars has every reason to be optimistic. Indeed, as their innovative safety solutions have already shown, the future may not be that far off.
Anders Axelson, for one, is confident: “The Swedish automotive industry is at the leading edge of active safety. Thanks to AstaZero, we have great prospects for keeping our leading position. We’re the only car manufacturing company in the world to have set a goal of zero traffic fatalities for a specific date, and we’re the only country in the world whose government supports a zero traffic fatalities vision.”
AstaZero AB has built a 500 million SEK state-of-the-art proving ground outside of Gothenburg, Sweden. Based upon the collaboration between academia, industry and the authorities, the AstaZero facility will serve as an open, international platform for all interested stakeholders like vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, legislators, road agents, universities, and technical institutes from around the world. AstaZero’s industry partners consist of Volvo Car Group, Volvo Group, Scania, Autoliv and Test Site Sweden. The name Asta (Active Safety Test Area) relates to the facility’s connection to a vision of zero traffic fatalities.
AstaZero’s total surface area amounts to about 2 000 000 square metres with a paved surface of 250 000 square metres. The facility is encircled by a 5.7 kilometre highway connected to a city environment with four blocks, 40 by 25 metres. AstaZero also features a high-speed area consisting of a circle, 240 metres in diameter, with “drop add-ons” joined to a 700-metre long multilane road.
The rural road contains ten different points, both open and concealed, where objects will appear in front of the vehicles. The area is specially designed for different tests of driver behaviour and is well-suited for the use of hidden or suddenly appearing obstacles. At the road, there will be two T-junctions and a crossroad with signage in the specified language and changeable to suit customer requirements. The Rural Road will also have bus stops/lay-bys at two locations.
The City Area will primarily be used to test the vehicle’s capacity to interact with the surrounding environment to avoid hitting buses, cyclists, pedestrians or other road users. The area therefore covers a number of different sub-areas, such as a town centre with varying street widths and lanes, bus stops, pavements, bike lanes, street lighting and building backdrops. The City Area also has a road system with different kinds of test environments such as roundabouts, T-junction, return-loop and lab-area.
The multilane road consists of four lanes. These are connected to the High-Speed Area, with an acceleration road that is approximately 300 metres long, 7 metres wide and with turning loop for long vehicles. Several different scenarios can be tested on the multilane road, such as lane changes, different collision scenarios and crossing scenarios.
Located in the centre of the facility, the High-Speed Area consists of two acceleration roads. Acceleration road one is approximately 1 kilometre long. In addition to the two acceleration roads, it is also possible to use the Multilane Road for acceleration, which means vehicles can enter the High-Speed Area from 3 different directions. In this area, focus will primarily be on vehicle dynamics like avoidance manoeuvres at very high speeds.
Dock Talk: It’s been emotional, folks, but it’s time to move on
ALICANTE, Spain, August 21 – Battered, bruised, happy, worried. You name it, at least one Volvo Ocean Race sailor felt it after a roller-coaster of a Round Britain and Ireland Race. So what next?
For Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, it was a week of smiles but keeping a tight lid on the growing optimism built on a near-perfect build-up to Race start on October 4 in Alicante.
Their record-smashing victory in the monohull class in the Round Britain Race confirmed what many have guessed: skipper Ian Walker is going to be a very serious force in the 12th edition after a couple of under-performing boats scuppered his hopes in the previous two.
Typically, he played Mr Cool when he sailed into Cowes – “we’ve got plenty of areas for improvement” – but the ever-present grin on his wind-battered face told a different story.
“While this has been a great race and a great result, our main focus will always be the Volvo Ocean Race and our preparation will continue with that goal in mind,” he said.
The only downside was that two of his key men, Justin Slattery (ribs) and Phil Harmer (hand), suffered pretty painful injuries during the 1,800 nautical mile round trip and their Volvo Ocean 65 boat Azzam had a couple of mechanical issues of its own.
Dongfeng Race Team, like Iker Martinez’s line-up, spent most of their five days around the British and Irish coasts chasing Azzam’s heels eventually finishing third behind the Spaniards.
That was a pretty impressive result considering Charles Caudrelier’s crew still has a distinctly wet-behind-the-ears, rookie feel to it with four Chinese newcomers.
Not that they were resting on their laurels this week. For them it was the journey up north from Southampton to Newcastle for a sea survival safety course alongside the other race crews.
The training, which covers everything from fire and medical emergencies to survival at sea, is a pre-requisite of entry to the round the world race, and an important step that all crews must undertake over the coming days.
Jiru Yang (‘Wolf’) summed up: “Wow! That was two of the most intensive days of my life – and also probably the most useful. I just hope I never need to use what I’ve learned.”
As for Martínez, he was topping up his safety knowledge after competing in the past two editions and his mind could understandably have been on his yet to be named boat. A title sponsor should be confirmed for the team in the next two or three weeks.
After the Round Britain and Ireland Race, he revealed: “We did have some electrical problems that did not help us, especially with navigation.”
He still has three more berths plus the onboard reporter to confirm for his boat but there was no update on this during the course of this week.
Team Alvimedica grabbed fourth place in the Volvo Ocean 65 race, pipping the all-female Team SCA by just 10 minutes after a near five-day tussle, and their relieved skipper Charlie Enright reckons that the Jekyll and Hyde weather encountered showed the strength of his crew.
“Tough conditions and tough terrain are a good way to test character, and it became clear that we have a good group of characters,” he said.
The hardcore training and racing over the last couple of weeks has been an eye-opener for Team SCA, but Abby Ehler believes that it is beneficial, and the perfect preparation for the big race.
“To train in the worst conditions possible makes you realise how hard it is,” she reasoned. “You cannot hear each other, and you cannot see each other through the lifejacket hoods - so you learn a lot about what it would feel like to be in those circumstances.”
Team Brunel, meanwhile, were keeping their own counsel after watching the progress of five of their rivals in the Round Britain and Ireland Race from their training base in Lanzarote.
The newest kids on the block, Team Vestas Wind, were concentrating on launching their boat for the first time this week and they report that it’s a case of so far, so good.
Volvos on the Indian Trail 2014
The Dutch "Volvos Classics Doing The Indian Trail" adventure has reached its end, but it is still being featured in the news.
The Southern Cal VSA chapter has posted a feature article by Munyungo Jackson on meeting Team 83 as they crossed the border into Arizona. Read about it here: www.socalvsa.org/news/?p=1366
Upon arrival in Fairbanks Alaska, the Alaska Dispatch News ran a local feature article available here: www.adn.com/article/20140818/dozens-vintage-volvos-roll-fairbanks-after-long-drive-panama
Hemmings Daily also ran a recent article about the event which is available here: blog.hemmings.com/index.php/2014/07/28/indian-trail-rally-takes-vintage-dutch-volvos-from-panama-to-alaska