The character of the town and the whole region was significantly influenced by an extensive lignite mining and chemical industry. It was the mining industry in the 17th century that had started the transformation of the agricultural area into a modern industrial region. At the time of the greatest boom in the 19th century, 39 underground mines and 15 opencast mines were in operation in the Sokolov District. Deep mining, one of the most important historical chapters of the region, came to an end in October 2017 when the mine water was pumped out for the last time.
And yet, the history of the region has provided a new opportunity to revive the Sokolov region. Sokolov came to the attention of a German automobile manufacturer, BMW, which was looking for an area large enough to build a test track for its autonomous vehicles. However, the size was not the only prerequisite for the right location. The proximity of the BMW headquarters in Munich and the fact that the area around Sokolov was used as a depot for underground excavations played an important role.
For COLAS, this technically challenging project represents an opportunity to present a full range of expertise including earthworks, drainage, civil engineering, noise protection, lighting, asphalt technology and design, safety and the creation of technical vegetation. The project also involves building, securing and equipping a network of roads and driving zones for testing and integrating new IT technologies, especially in the development of autonomous vehicles.
This giant circuit will enable any driving conditions to be established with surfaces simulating motorways, multi-lane roads, urban roads of various types, car parks, tunnels, autonomous driving zones and rural or mountain roads. In total, there are more than 100 kilometres of roads of various types.
Similarly to other major projects, the construction of the Future Development Centre requires experts being brought from different fields with considerable skills and experience together as to build the world of tomorrow. We have already completed a huge milestone – the first two project stages were completed and handed over this summer.