The zero future
AstaZero is located next to Volvos test track in Hällered, just some 50 kilometres from downtown Gothenburg. By this it is close to the Swedish automotive industries, as they are concentrated to western Sweden.
AstaZero is the world’s first full scale test environment for future road safety. Its multiple full-size traffic environments, combined with an advanced state of art 5G network, make this site unique. This allows researchers to do full scale test of their active system, no matter if it’s in city settings, in rural traffic or on the freeway. The site enables research, development and certification of active road safety systems and is open to national and international vehicle manufacturers, legislators, and researchers. There is also a possibility to keep confidentiality between various parts of the facility, allowing different teams to simultaneously use the test areas.
Active safety focus
The facility’s name derives from Active Safety Test Area and the “Vision Zero”, implied by the Swedish parliament’s target of zero casualties (dead and seriously injured) in road traffic. Since the inauguration in August of 2014, the research done here is based on the insight that it’s not enough to only depend on passive safety systems. Today research is more focused on avoiding accidents and dangerous traffic situations, rather than minimising the damage from them.
As researchers today look at traffic in a holistic perspective, safety of course also includes pedestrians, cyclists and other unprotected road and street users. This vision of zero casualties is also dead (!) important if you want to go forward as a modern and clean industry.
AstaZeros impact and importance is also recognised worldwide. Just some months ago a partnership with the American Center for Mobility (USA) and K-City (South Korea) was announced. A partnership that aims at creating globally harmonised approaches for the development of connected and autonomous vehicles in test environments.
Quite a lot of the research at AstaZero is aiming at autonomous traffic, as it has proven not only to provide less dangerous traffic, but also to enhance cities and other traffic environments immensely. In short, autonomous transports make cities more humane, or if you prefer; more clean and green. There are still a lot of obstacles to hurdle, but among researchers the certainty is unmistakable on where they feel transport society is heading. So, finding the right solutions in autonomous transports will create the foundation of a successful industry within the segment.
One of the smaller, innovative companies that have been using AstaZero a lot is Swedish start-up Einride. By now the merely two years old company already have its prototypes for the all-electric, autonomous vehicles (for example the “T-pod”) up and running. Einride is one of those new and differently mindset companies, bent on completely transforming the transportation industry. When asked why Einride been using AstaZero so much, Adam Nelvin, Head of PR & Public Affairs at Einride, explains.
– AstaZero is a unique environment, where safety systems can be tested in a wide range of traffic situations. We are developing a complete and unique road freight transportation system, based on autonomous, all-electric vehicles. Continuous experimentation in a realistic environment is vital to us, as we are trying to do something nobody has done before. We also share an ideological affiliation with AstaZero, being true believers in Vision Zero, the Swedish road safety approach. With autonomous vehicles like for example our T-pod, « zero » becomes a viable goal, a realistic target.
The fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), with its demands on lean manufacturing, is pressing on. For a lean industry it is important to lie in the forefront of the development to be competitive enough. The auto industries need for lean, clean and green production development is imminent. Industrial access to AstaZero helps doing the right things, not least because the plant is physically close to the automotive industry of Sweden.
– A significant part of our tech team is located in our office here; many of them are long-time residents and former students at Chalmers (University of Technology). It makes sense for the industry as a whole that AstaZero is located where it is, and that goes for Einride as well, Adam Nelvin concludes.
AstaZero is somewhat of a chameleon, always adapting to new research needs. In August 2018 the new “super multilane” opened, after just nine months of construction. It shows how keen AstaZero is not only to follow, but also to lead the way. To the auto industry this facility has become a true and important key for a successful industry.
/Gunnar Fägersten Novik
– Keys for a successful industry
AstaZero is a joint venture, owned by RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden) and Chalmers University of Technology. Its financial partners are AB Volvo, Volvo Car Corporation, Scania, FFI, Autoliv, The Swedish Transport Administration, Region Västra Götaland, Borås Stad, Swedish Agency for Economic and Regional Growth and Test Site Sweden.
Active safety: In its most basic form, active safety is about avoiding collisions and other incidents before they happen. Combining sensor technology, vehicle communication and on-board computers, enabling vehicles to communicate both with each other and with their surroundings, does this. When cars get smarter they can compensate for the human factor that is the main cause of traffic accidents.