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August 22, 2014

SWEDEN: Volvo goes “step closer” to zero fatalities with proving site opening

Sweden's opening of the AstaZero proving ground near Gothenburg yesterday (21 August) will bring Volvo "a step closer" maintains the automaker to its ambitious goal by 2020 of no-one in one of the manufacturer's new cars being killed or seriously injured.

Sweden’s opening of the AstaZero proving ground near Gothenburg yesterday (21 August) will bring Volvo “a step closer” maintains the automaker to its ambitious goal by 2020 of no-one in one of the manufacturer’s new cars being killed or seriously injured.

AstaZero, a SEK500m (US$72.5m) automotive research centre backed by Volvo Car Group, Scania, Autoliv and Test Site Sweden, as well as academia and government authorities, will allow OEMs and suppliers to focus particularly on active safety systems.

“We have a vision at Volvo, we believe in a future transportation system without fatalities,” said Volvo Cars technical specialist, Eric Coelingh, as he demonstrated an autonomous driving session at the circuit, with steering, brakes and speed controlled through radar and camera.

“Almost [all] accidents occur because of human error. There is huge potential because you take away the cause of all accidents.

“Of course we use the building blocks we already have, but if you want to build a self-driving car, you need much more information. You need driver-redundant solutions in terms of sensing and actuation. What would it take for the driver not to supervise?”

By 2017, Volvo will have 100 people operating self-driving cars in its home city of Gothenburg, garnering real-time data. “This is not technology for the sake of technology,” insists Coelingh. “There are challenges with technology – it is far from finished.”

To that end, Volvo was demonstrating autonomous vehicles at the test track and although it is perfectly feasible to drive a car that senses other automobiles, lane deviation and rail proximity, the driver nonetheless currently needs to maintain a level of awareness if needed, to take over either through braking or steering.

The AstaZero centre will focus on active safety, utilising a range of conditions such as busy city roads, multi-lane highways, crossroads and how cars interact with pedestrians, bicycles, mopeds, trucks, buses and animals, that randomly appear.

The proving ground has build a ‘Harlem’ city environment, replicating the New York suburb, with pedestrian dummies for example able to suddenly present themselves and test automatic braking systems to the limit.

A further psychological test – as well as seeing how drivers adapt to the highly challenging concept of operating hands-free automobiles – will be to see how non-automated vehicle users react to autonomously-driven machines.

“One of the questions we will work on, is how will other drivers react?” said Coelingh. “We really don’t know and we have to find answers to that.”

Volvo said AstaZero’s is the world’s first full-scale proving ground for future traffic safety solutions and brings the Group a “step closer” to its no fatalities or serious injuries goal by 2020.

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