The Lower Saxony Test Field is aimed at bringing the transport of the future onto the roads. After the completion of the final construction work over recent months, automated and networked vehicles can now be tested and driving behaviour and traffic flows recorded and analysed. The test field was officially opened by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on 8 January 2020, with representatives from government and industry in attendance.
Karsten Lemmer, DLR Executive Board Member for Energy and Transport, Bernd Althusmann, Lower Saxony Minister for Economic Affairs, Labour, Transport and Digitalisation, Björn Thümler, Lower Saxony Minister for Science and Culture, and Thomas Jarzombek, a Member of the German Federal Parliament, the Economic Affairs Ministry's Commissioner for the Digital Industry and Start-ups and Federal Government Coordinator of Aerospace Policy initiated the first data transmissions from the measurement systems on the A39 motorway near Braunschweig. Afterwards, they were able to see for themselves the route and the possible uses of the test field while travelling in research vehicles.
At the launch, Karsten Lemmer announced that: "The Lower Saxony Test Field is an important development, as it allows us to make the most of the advantages offered by the technologies of automated and networked driving, and to apply them in real life. With its new research findings, DLR can create a better basis for decision-making, so as to transform our mobility and work towards optimised traffic flows and more sparing consumption of resources."
"Digitalisation has the potential to change transport and mobility in a fundamental way," said Bernd Althusmann. "Automated and networked driving is set to radically shape mobility in future. We want to support this process in a constructive way. The Lower Saxony Test Field concentrates on automated and networked mobility and is thus an important component of Lower Saxony’s transport strategy."
Björn Thümler added: "Mobility is a key area of focus for the future in Lower Saxony. Now that the Lower Saxony Test Field has been launched, we have outstanding infrastructure for the research and development of smart mobility solutions. This infrastructure and the outstanding research environment into which the partners are integrated offers the best possible conditions for the transfer of innovative solutions into industry and wider society."
Thomas Jarzombek is also pleased that the Lower Saxony Test Field can now commence operations: "Companies, scientific research institutions and start-ups require spaces in which they can test and further develop innovative technologies and possible applications. With the Lower Saxony Test Field, we are creating a nationally and internationally outstanding infrastructure for researching and developing intelligent mobility solutions. The aim is to develop the mobility of the future here in Germany and put it on the road."
Launch for future road traffic with masts, maps and simulations
The Lower Saxony Test Field is being put into operation piece by piece. Some 71 masts have now been installed along the A39. These are able to record road users and all other objects within the transport area anonymously. This gives scientists an indication of what future assistance and automation systems will have to be able to accomplish. The masts can communicate with each other and with vehicles equipped with the appropriate technology. In addition to the fixed masts, there are also mobile masts that allow the researchers to conduct tests away from the motorway. This enables analysis and support for automated driving manoeuvres at different locations and on different types of roads.
Another important component of the Lower Saxony Test Field – in addition to the roads and motorways – is the high-precision mapping and simulation of the entire route. This makes it possible to conduct advance testing of systems that will later be used on real roads. This interplay between different development methods and testing techniques and tools is another aspect that is unique to the Lower Saxony Test Field.
The future of the test field
The test field is an open platform for research and development. It offers scope for scientific dialogue and, together with its users, is intended to help shape automated and networked mobility in the future.
Researchers at the DLR Institute of Transport Systems will use the data collected at the test field to take a closer look at specific road situations such as traffic jams, merging activities and overtaking manoeuvres. Functions for automated and networked vehicles will be developed or improved on this basis. Methods and concepts for the approval of automated vehicles in Germany are also being developed and tested in practice on the roads. The top priority is always to make motorised transport safer and more efficient, to increase comfort for drivers and to reduce emissions.