5g driverless test zone

Real autonomous vehicles to be tested in virtual traffic at new 5G test facility

A facility for testing driverless cars is opening in Sweden that will be fitted out with a 5G network allowing operators to virtually simulate traffic while testing cars in real-world conditions at the same time.

The project, dubbed AstaZero, is being led by the Swedish state-owned Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) in partnership with Chalmers University.

They said it represents a first step towards a new type of test environment that provides the data necessary to predict vehicle behaviour in real-life situations without the need for on-the-road testing.

Engineers at the facility in Gothenburg predict that it will speed up development on driverless technology 10-fold, something that is expected to be broadly welcomed by automakers in an industry expected to be worth $7tn (£5tn) by 2050.

5g driverless test zone

AstaZero can simulate virtually any traffic situation in any city on the planet. It is able to blend virtual recreations of iconic areas such as the Arc de Triomphe traffic system in Paris or Times Square in New York, with real vehicles and real people stationed around the track.

The developers believe the facility enables a new level of testing traffic complexity and real-world applications in the test loop.

“The automotive industry clearly needs better, faster and much more complex test facilities before new self-driving products can be safely tested on public roads. AstaZero is unveiling the world’s most advanced test environment with 5G speed and accuracy that can replicate real-world traffic complexity unlikely anything that’s been seen before”, said AstaZero CEO Peter Janvik.

At the moment the facility can emulate five different test environments: bike test area, city area, a multi-lane road, rural road and a flexible high-speed area.

5g driverless test zone

5G connectivity allows the vehicles to transmit vast amounts of data that can be analysed on the fly and the developers can also test autonomous capabilities in environments with congested signal – a frequent problem in dense, urban environments.

Testing autonomous cars that only have access to intermittent or slow internet speeds is crucial as 5G networks are expected to become an important part of the way in which driverless vehicles navigate their environment and anticipate upcoming blockages or hazards. 

The AstaZero facility also caters for advanced testing of self-driving construction vehicles too, an area where many believe self-driving technology will be implemented first.

By using a high amount of remotely controlled vehicles combined with fully automated vehicles deep underground, humans can stay above ground and work safely.

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