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Volvo brings robots to AstaZero safety test track

Sections: Car Safety

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Volvo AstaZero Proving Ground city scene press photo

Volvo’s AstaZero Proving Ground can simulate a wide variety of driving scenarios, from the city intersection seen here to divided, high-speed highways. In some of the scenarios, robots will pilot the vehicles used in testing. (Photo courtesy Volvo Cars)

Volvo said its AstaZero Proving Ground will serve as a test bed for future safety and crash avoidance technologies — and in some cases, robots will drive vehicles on the test track.

You’re reacting one of two ways right now: “Woah, that’s cool,” or, “Woah, that’s kinda scary.”

A press release from Volvo said the automaker’s active safety systems will be the primary focus at AstaZero, which is to be located near Volvo Cars HQ in western Sweden. Reportedly, the test track will be configurable to a wide variety of test scenarios, including scenes that might be found on busy city streets, highways, multi-lane motorways, and various crossroad configurations.

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

The release said all those different scenarios are crucial to understanding how cars interact with moving obstacles, including other cars, pedestrians, cycles, motorcycles, trucks, buses, and even animals that suddenly appear.

The part that made our ears perk up, though, was this: Some scenarios — namely those involving high speeds and complex traffic situations — will see robots operate the vehicles. We’ll hope Skynet does not become self-aware.

Volvo Cars Safety Centre representative Anders Axelson said, “Safety testing under realistic circumstances is a prerequisite for developing our active safety systems. 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.”

In addition to working on next-generation safety technologies for Volvo Cars, AstaZero reportedly will work on autonomous driving technologies. It’s all part of the automaker’s desire to make sure no one is killed or seriously injured in a Volvo car by 2020. A lofty goal with just a little more than five years to go, but Axelson said he’s 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,” he said.

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