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BMW to set up campus for self-driving studies

Development and testing of automated iNext to take place under one roof

Published: January 1, 2017, 9:30 PM
Updated: January 5, 2017, 2:29 AM

BMW autonomous software testing

BMW is gearing up for the launch of autonomous driving by setting up a campus outside Munich to research, and eventually finalize, the intricacies of automated vehicles.

Located in Unterschleissheim, the focus of the 2,000 employees who will work at the facility (on its completion) with development and testing of the BMW iNext (self driving, electric and fully connected) that is scheduled for release in 2021. Internally, the project is known as “project i 2.0.”

“The decision to develop and road-test these vehicles in the Munich area illustrates how the BMW Group and the whole region can benefit from this shift in the automotive industry,” explained Klaus Fröhlich, BMW Group’s head of development. “In order to succeed, we are establishing new forms of collaboration under “project i 2.0”, with small teams of specialists for rapid response and collaboration across the company, as well as a high level of individual decision-making authority.”

BMW autonomous car software testing

The idea behind the campus, which starts working in mid-2017, is that software developers will be able to test the code they have just written in an actual vehicle, in order to create a speedier turnaround on new ideas and directions for the upcoming models that will follow in rapid succession after the initial iNext launch in 2021.

“We are combining the advantages of a start-up, such as flexibility and speed, with those of an established company, like process security and industrialisation expertise,” adds Fröhlich.

The company currently employs 600 people working on automated driving, with most those being software developers.

“We still do our own programming here and are responsible for implementing our own ideas,” explains André Müller, a software developer in the autonomous driving team. “We use the latest technologies, such as ROS (Robot Operating System), and are able to see the results quickly and directly in the vehicle. It is extremely exciting to be working on such an important area for the future.”

And doing the math, yes, BMW will be doing a lot of hiring to bring IT specialists and more developers on board, especially in areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis.