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Tested by testing grounds

June 10, 2015

In Sweden, a state-of-the-art driving environment is being constructed for road safety research.

Floorplan of site

Deep in the Swedish woods there is a cluster of roads where pushing vehicles to their top speeds won’t get you a ticket.

When it opens, AstaZero will be among the most advanced vehicle testing grounds in the world, a place where car and truck manufacturers will challenge the speed and safety of their products.

Located some 60 kilometers east of Gothenburg and scheduled for completion in September 2014, this facility will test vehicle dynamics, driver behavior, and measurement and positioning technology. At the researchers’ disposal will be six kilometers of country roads, one kilometer of multilane roads, three bridges, two acceleration stretches (each a kilometer long), a simulated city area and a 240-meter-diameter vehicle dynamics area (VDA).

“There is nothing like this VDA anywhere else in the world,” says Bo Wirén, Quality Engineer at Peab, the construction and civil engineering company contracted to build all of the paved areas. “It’s the biggest.”

At the AstaZero site, Wirén is one of about 60 people from Peab, which began work in September 2012. The company has had, at most, 65 active machines in the area, including three compactors. That is the largest concentration of machines Peab has ever had in an area this size.

Wirén says that completing the job in less than two years is perhaps the biggest challenge, noting that it has been particularly difficult transporting such huge volumes in such a short time; by the time Peab leaves the site in July 2014, the company will have extracted approximately 620 000 cubic meters of rock and 350 000 cubic meters of peat. The team is using the Atlas Copco Dynapac CA6000D compactor, the first to be put into operation when the model was launched at the end of 2011. “We were a little concerned before starting because of the huge amount of rock to move, but the compaction has gone well,” says Wirén.

Good drivers and precision instruments are vital for this project, he says. Peab must meticulously pack an 80-millimeter layer of gravel before covering it with three layers of asphalt. “We really pack in the gravel and drive back and forth, watering it for optimum sealing,” Wirén says. “We have tougher demands for these roads than when we build highways.”

Atlas Copco’s new Dynapac compactors use 20% less fuel than the previous generation of compactors, thanks to the engine’s ECO mode, with lower carbon dioxide emissions, as well.

Such energy efficiency is important for Peab. “We have ECO driver education courses, for example, and we’re looking into alternative forms of energy, such as adding pine tree oil to fuel,” says Wirén. “We’ve made a big improvement in gas efficiency and emission levels in our vehicles, compared to just a few years ago.”

Operator Kim Fornes hops out of the Atlas Copco Dynapac CA6000D with a smile. After more than 3,000 driving hours, he feels quite at home in Atlas Copco’s latest compactor. The Dynapac CA6000D is built for comfort. The combustion air intake is placed at the top of the hood with the outlet down the sides, combined with the ejector exhaust outlet. The result? “This is a quieter machine than the others I’ve driven,” says Fornes. “I don’t need to wear headsets when driving, and I can listen to the radio while working – which is nice, especially during a long workday.”

The driver’s seat rotates and has a steering module that allows movement of up to 180 degrees. This helps take away any stress or strain on the neck and body. The cab is also well insulated and air-conditioned, which Fornes says he appreciated during the hot summer. Whenever possible – particularly when moving the machine from one area to another – Fornes uses Atlas Copco Dynapac’s ECO mode to minimize fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.

Fornes also uses Atlas Copco Dynapac’s documentation system daily. “Most compactors don’t come with a documentation system, but I think having one makes a big difference,” he says. “I record everything to ensure that I don’t miss a surface. At the same time, we can make a print-out and show our progress.” Moreover, if Fornes misses a day on the job, another driver can easily pick up where he left off.

Safety zone

The AstaZero (Active Safety Test Area) test facility is being built for the research and development of future road safety systems.

This collaboration between academia, industry and authorities welcomes international stakeholders such as vehicle manufacturers, suppliers, legislators, road agents, universities and technical institutes from around the world. Among AstaZero’s partners are Volvo, Scania, the Swedish Transport Administration and Autoliv, a global automotive safety supplier.

Written by Cari Simmons

Peab’s operator Kim Fornes (left), seen here with Quality Engineer Bo Wirén, enjoys the quiet cab.

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