A ‘VIRTUAL human’ suddenly steps out at a blind bend, but the engineer in the Volvo car on the test track does not flinch, leaving it to software to take evasive action.
Private test tracks like the one owned by AstaZero of Sweden (瑞典) are playing an increasing role as manufacturers like Volvo put self-driving cars through their paces following high-profile setbacks on public roads, auto executives say.
Automakers and technology companies are locked in a race to bring these vehicles into commercial use by 2022, but their efforts on public roads stumbled last year when an Uber test car hit and killed a pedestrian.
The accident raised public questions about the technology’s safety and made road testing permission tougher to secure, with Uber resuming trials in a severely reduced capacity in December and authorities placing restrictions on its programme.
“Everybody has revised the protocols a little bit after that kind of crash because we cannot have that again,” Dennis Nobelius, head of Volvo Cars’ Zenuity driverless software joint venture, told Reuters.
“The industry ... has really been made to do one more loop ... not only [to] make the end product safe enough but also make the testing secure,” Nobelius said from the backseat of the autonomous Volvo car at AstaZero’s track.
Self-driving trucks are even tougher to test than cars because of their size and weight and truck makers say they are running tests at enclosed sites like warehouses, harbours and mines where human access can be restricted for safety.
Scania is trialling an autonomous truck at customer Rio Tinto’s Australian (澳洲的) mines while an identical truck at its Swedish base runs more tests through simulations.
“In this kind of environment we’re able to test more or less what we need for public roads later on,” Lars-Gunnar Hedstrom, Scania’s engineering director at Connected and Autonomous Systems, told Reuters.
“We have the possibility to be out on customer sites and run real operations much earlier, which is a big difference.”
The AstaZero track, which counts Scania and rival AB Volvo as customers, says it has also secured partnerships with domestic universities and testing grounds in the United States (美國), South Korea (南韓) and Singapore (新加坡) that give it data about traffic, city planning and human behaviour.
This data, CEO Peter Janevik says, is essential because people’s behaviour in traffic differs across countries.
Start-up Einride uses one of the tracks to check whether a person in Barcelona (巴塞隆拿) can use Ericsson’s 5G network to remotely steer its driverless electric truck.
The company believes autonomous technology has the potential to reduce the number of accidents.
(This article is published on the Student Standard on 22 March 2019)