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AstaZero Unveils Mixed Reality Testing for Driverless Cars

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【Summary】The recent upgrades to the AstaZero proving ground brings the facility one step closer to becoming a preferred, global testing site for developers of self-driving cars.

Michael Cheng    Oct 29, 2018 10:16 AM PT
AstaZero Unveils Mixed Reality Testing for Driverless Cars

The Sweden-based AstaZero proving ground is one of the most advanced sites for testing autonomous vehicles and new automotive technologies. Operated by stated-owned Research Institutes of Sweden (in partnership with Chalmers University), the location has been upgraded with new facilities designed to streamline development.

The site now caters to mixed reality testing: a combination of real-word elements and virtual reality. AstaZero leverages 5G connectivity (developed by WARA-CAT, Ericsson and PTS3) and distributed cloud infrastructure to generate mixed-reality environments and theoretical driving scenarios for automakers.

Mixed Reality Testing

The recent upgrades to the AstaZero proving ground brings the facility one step closer to becoming a preferred, global testing site for developers of self-driving cars. Mixed-reality capabilities enable automakers to recreate busy road environments in major cities worldwide, such as the Arc de Triomphe traffic system in Paris, Time Square in New York and the iconic (and notoriously crowded) Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

"If you have a controlled and repeatable environment, when it comes to security and safety, we are a very good step between simulated systems and a physical proving ground," cited Peter Janvik, CEO of AstaZero.

"Then you can go into cities with closed-off streets and the like. By having a closed, repeatable environment with mixed reality, you can accelerate development."

Incorporating virtual reality with real-world environments is useful for consistent testing. When performing tests at intersections and crossings, developers could generate virtual pedestrian activities on a loop, which does not need to be manually reset. Moreover, it would be possible to generate (virtual) extreme weather conditions without causing damage to the vehicles, equipment and makeshift buildings in the area.

With full control of the virtual elements, developers can also accurately gather data in real-time. At the moment, AstaZero offers the following environments for testing: bike-test area, city area, multilane road (with a turning loop), rural road and high-speed area.

The research center is in the process of adding a super multi-lane area to cater to stringent testing methods. AstaZero supports testing via ISO standards for a global approach to compliance and data handling.     

AstaZero Proving Ground and Volvo

Established in 2014, the AstaZero proving ground spans roughly 500 acres. The facility includes four city blocks and more than three miles of highway for trials. To make the site as realistic as possible, developers are provided access to roundabouts, intersections, T-junctions, traffic lights and road signs.

Several automakers, government organizations, telecom operators and universities are conducting tests at AstaZero. Volvo, as well as the car manufacturer's partners, previously confirmed it would use the proving ground to help achieve its ambitious safety goals, which are expected to be met by 2020. The testing site is conveniently located near Volvo's headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden.

"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," said Anders Axelson from Volvo Cars Safety Center.

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