A Frozen Lake in Northern Sweden Is a Prime Automotive Testing Ground

When it gets cold, automakers come to Arjeplog

A Frozen Lake in Northern Sweden Is a Prime Automotive Testing Ground

In 1978, Mercedes-Benz became the first automaker to offer anti-lock brakes, and in doing so changed the way people drive. What was a rarity in 1978 has become a standard feature today, making for safer roads and more secure driving. But how do automakers test just how well those braking systems work? It turns out the answer to that can be found in Sweden. Specifically, very far north in Sweden.

In the town of Arjeplog, a frozen lake serves as a testing ground for a wide variety of automakers, as well as automotive destinations like the driving schools offered by Jaguar and Land Rover. A new article by Erinn Magee at Smithsonian Magazine ventures into Arjeplog’s history, and explains how a town that was once known as a summer destination now quadruples its population every winter.

The history of testing cars on the frozen surface of Lake Kakel began in the 1970s, when Bosch purchased part of the lake and built a track there for testing purposes. What sparked that idea? It turns out that they were inspired after seeing the frozen lake used as a runway for planes. Gradually, more and more automakers began opting to test there, and soon, a new reason for people to visit was born.

The auto industry has, in turn, bolstered the tourism industry in the area, with some area residents operating businesses targeted to visitors, including tours of the region by snowmobile and ice fishing. The route that led to Arjeplog being a major automotive destination was unexpected, but it’s worked out to the benefit of both industry and town.

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