BMW speeds setting up R&D center for autonomous driving

December 21, 2016 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
To reach its goal of bringing the electric, connected and autonomous vehicles of its iNEXT series to series production, carmaker BMW kicks on the pedal: The company announced to establish an additional R&D center dedicated exclusively to autonomous driving.

In the new R&D center, more than 2000 engineers will be engaged in the development works, from devising software to road tests. The center will be located in Unterschleissheim near Munich and complement BMWs existing R&D center where more than 10.000 engineers from BMW and its suppliers ponder over next-generation vehicle technology. Starting in mid-2017, the new Unterschleissheim campus will conflate all activities and competencies related to autonomous driving currently dispersed across various locations.

In the new campus, BMW also will establish and test innovative project management approaches. “Within the scope of our project I 2.0 we will establish new ways of collaboration: Small project teams that act like speedboats, enterprise-spanning collaboration and high individual decision-making competencies”, explained Klaus Fröhlich who oversees BMW’s R&D activities at the board level. “This will combine the advantages of a start-up company like speed and flexibility with those of an established enterprise such as process maturity and industrializing competency”. The new R&D campus will enable BMW to bring the company’s first commercial self-driving vehicle to the market in 2021. Already in 2017, the carmaker plans to start driving tests with highly automated vehicles in urban environments, namely in Munich.

Currently at BMW some 600 engineers and software designers are involved in highly automated driving technologies, with most of them being dedicated to software development. “We indeed are devising our algorithms by ourselves and can implement our ideas independently”, explained André Müller, software developer in the autonomous driving team. “We are using the latest technologies such as ROS (Robot Operating System) and can experience the results quickly and directly in the vehicle.” Currently the carmaker is hiring many more developers, IT experts and software designers with expertise in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Data Analysis.