BMW has inaugurated the Autonomous Drive Campus in Unterschleissheim, near Munich, a center of excellence and a potential business for the future in the short-to medium-term. To show how much BMW believes in the project, it gave it a name that reflects its pride and ambition: “The Bavarian Silicon Valley.”
The year of the autonomous BMW car will be 2021, according to the company’s official statements. The Bavarian brand has concentrated its efforts. In particular, it has put them together on the “Campus” following the American model, with the aim of channeling and putting all the spearheads of research, experimentation and development in close contact, and comparison.
This is an investment of 500 million euros, funded with a contribution from the state of Bavaria, and Governor Markus Soder was enthusiastically present at the inauguration.
BMW has always developed and changed over time, to adapt: this is its strength. Born “as a Bavarian engine factory” (Bayerische Motoren Werke), famous for the engines, radial, and jet of the Focke-Wulf and Messerschmitt in the Second World War, it then climbed the sales rankings of sports and luxury cars. Now it is specializing in services, connection and guidance.
On the Unterschleissheim campus there are numerous teams, who study and develop every aspect of autonomous driving. The focus is on levels 3 (expected for 2021) 4 and 5, the last of which does not provide for the presence of the human driver.
Spearheading this push will be BMW iNext, the electric flagship slated for 2021. At that time a new modular platform will be ready, adaptable to any type of powertrain (electric one and the hybrid one with the combination of the petrol engine) .
Meanwhile on the campus, sensors are developed, the Series 7 (that is the best model of the BMW) of the tests have as many as 40 installed . Millions of pieces of experience data are stored on the road in Europe, USA and Asia. This data forms the basis of further simulations, adding other variables of conditions. FCA and Delphi are also working alongside BMW.
At the Autonomous Drive Campus, a structure that is as long as three football fields, artificial intelligence also develops. Driver assistance systems are experienced, with an ever increasing calculation capacity. An example? On cars that test stand-alone level 5 driving, the central control pad has the processing capacity of 150 desktops, office computers. Artificial intelligence on cars is set up very similar to human behavior. The first sensors are like eyes and ears, they perceive everything around them. Then we move on to the selection of the most important objects, to the visualization of the scenario and finally to the behavior / decision to be taken. Depending on the situation and experience.
The business of being the first to become more and more efficient and above all safe, self-driving could be a cornerstone for BMW. We got on a 7 Series, with no one behind the wheel. Sitting in the back seat. From which we could, using a tablet, give the starting command, sound the horn, open the roof or the windows, listen to music. But the car has traveled alone. A window on the future, not overwhelming, but extremely advanced and above all just around the corner.