Zenuity Develops Driving Tests for Autonomous Cars

Author: Mia Bevacqua   

There are a lot of bad human drivers on the road. It's very likely that self-driving cars will soon be safer (and smarter) than many of them. Zenuity hopes to prove autonomous car safety through rigorous testing at it's track in Gothenburg, Sweden. 

Proving the self-driving car is worthy 

Zenuity is a joint venture between Volvo and Autoliv, a Swedish auto-safety company. Before self-driving cars can hit the road in mass, the public must be convinced they're as safe as human drivers. At its test track, Zenuity plans to test autonomous cars until they're as safe – if not safer – than their flesh and bone counterparts. 

Safe doesn't mean perfect. It just means the autonomous car needs to be able to handle its set tasks. It must be able to follow traffic rules and avoid running people over. Any problems such as software bugs, hardware problems and environmental limitations must be very rare.

Proving autonomous cars are trustworthy is no easy task. A self-driving car has to navigate countless scenarios to prove it's roadworthy. This includes everything from snow storms to text-distracted human drivers. Testing all these situations in the real world is too time consuming. So instead, computer simulations and mathematical modelling are often used.

Methods for testing autonomous car safety 

Zenuity combines modelling with real world testing to study autonomous vehicle safety. The company has several methods in its repertoire for doing this. 

"Dummy" autonomous car: One of the strategies the company uses is a "dummy" autonomous car. With this set up, test subjects ride inside a vehicle they believe is self-driving. In reality, a professional driver is hidden in the back of the car. Most of subjects are comfortable believing they're being chauffeured around by computers and wiring. In fact, many get bored or fall asleep. This test is used to determine how people react to a self-driving car.

Computer simulations: Peta would get angry (and rightfully so) if live deer were used during autonomous vehicle testing.There are some scenarios – like steering clear of a buck – that are best left to simulations. 

Test tracks: Zenuity has set up camp at Sweden's AstaZero test track. This location boasts multiple settings, such as simulated residential areas and highways.

Real traffic areas: Nothing beats the real thing. Zenuity tests self-driving cars on public roads – with human supervision, of course.

Testing cameras: Video recordings are used to test cameras. Playing videos of hard-to-duplicate read world situations (like a rogue deer in heat) can help determine what the car "sees".

Intentional Impairment: Testing in rain and snow can help establish whether a self-driving car can function with obstructed sensors.

Self-driving cars aren't quite ready for the public roads – yet 

So, what's the verdict – is it safe to give up your keys for a self-driving car? According to the experts over at Zenuity, not yet. But they're working on it. 

In a recent article, representatives from the company said, "By focusing on the acceptable rather than obsessing over perfection, and by breaking down the colossal number of safety verifications into manageable tasks, we can make self-driving vehicles a reality for many customers around the world."


Source: IEEE Spectrum

Mia Bevacqua
Mia is an ASE Certified Master Automobile Technician, L1, L2 and L3 Advanced Level Specialist. She has over 12 years of experience in the automotive industry and a bachelor’s degree in automotive technology. These skills have been applied toward content writing, technical writing, inspections, consulting, automotive software engineering.
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