17 September, 2018

BMW and FCA invest in new facilities to further autonomous development

Two large automotive manufacturers have announced new facilities aimed at improving their research and development of autonomous vehicles.

BMW is constructing a new Driving Simulation Centre in Munich, while Fiat Chrysler (FCA) has built a new test track in the US for the exclusive use of testing the company’s self-driving technology. Both companies are hoping that the development of the technology will make them a leader in the field of future mobility.

Construction on the BMW Driving Simulation Centre began in mid-August, and the company believes it will be ‘the world’s most advanced facility for the simulation of real-world driving situations.’ A unique feature of the facility is the high-fidelity simulator, in which longitudinal, transverse and rotational movements of a vehicle can be represented simultaneously and therefore very realistically.

This allows the BMW engineers to ‘bring the road into the lab,’ to conduct studies just as if they were taking place in real-world road traffic. This will especially help in the development of autonomous driving systems, testing them in simulation before putting them on the road. The new building provides unique possibilities for virtual testing of advanced driving assistance systems and innovative display and control concepts.

Automated driving is one of the main technology areas which the BMW Group has designated as being of central importance in its NUMBER ONE > NEXT corporate strategy. Covering a total floor area of 11,400 square metres, the facility will comprise 14 simulators and usability labs employing 157 people. BMW Group Research is planning to start work here in 2020. The investment in the new Driving Simulation Centre is estimated at around €100 million.

Meanwhile, FCA US announced that it had invested more than $30 million (€ million) at its Chelsea Proving Grounds in southeast Michigan to further development and testing of autonomous vehicle and advanced safety technologies. The all-new facility, which begins testing programs in September, features a dedicated autonomous highway-speed track, 35-acre safety-feature evaluation area and a high-tech command centre.

‘The all-new facility at Chelsea Proving Grounds will help support and enable the successful rollout of the company’s five-year plan laid out earlier this year,’ said Mike Manley, chief executive officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and chief operating officer, NAFTA region. ‘Our ability to test for autonomous and advanced safety technologies enables FCA to offer our customers the features they want across our brand portfolio.’

The facility will allow for testing of various levels of autonomy and enables the company to evaluate FCA vehicles using test protocols from third parties. The autonomous highway-speed track also offers the capability to develop autonomous vehicle systems under a wide range of challenging environments, including obstacles, tunnels, varying road lighting conditions, and interstate-style exit and entrance ramps.