It seems like hardly a week goes by without our hearing about another automated safety feature for cars. Such technologies include systems that detect when drivers are getting tired, that allow multiple cars to safely travel together in speed-controlled "convoys," or that warn drivers when they're drifting out of their lane. Now, in order to help foster the development of more such concepts, a new Swedish test-track facility has begun operations.

Known as AstaZero (named for its being an Active Safety Test Area, combined with the Swedish government's goal of zero road fatalities), the center is being billed as "the world's first full-scale test environment for future road safety." It was developed by a consortium of European companies and institutes, and is owned by Sweden's SP Technical Research Institute and Chalmers University of Technology.

It's divided into five connected areas, which together should reportedly be able to simulate all modes of road transportation and traffic situations. These areas include a main proving ground center, a multi-lane road, a city area with four districts of buildings and streets, a high-speed area, and a rural road.

All of the roads feature Wi-Fi connectivity, along with continuous roadside conduits providing electrical power and fiber optics, catering to both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. Available props include pedestrian and animal dummies, remote-control "balloon cars," guard rails and traffic signs. In phase 2 of the development, features such as a tunnel, fog generator and rain generator may be added.

AstaZero is located outside the city of Borås, and was inaugurated this Thursday. It is available for bookings by any research institute, automobile manufacturer, or other group that wishes to use it. It will be possible for users to hire just the track, or the track and its research engineers.

It can be seen in use, in the following video.

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