The company’s new Munich-based research center will be the starting point.
By the year 2020, every vehicle in the BMW lineup will be electrified. While that sounds like a daunting task in itself, the company will continue to move forward with its new iNext project, which promises to have an autonomous, electric vehicle on the road just a year later.
In doing so, BMW has opened a new campus in Unterschleissheim, Germany, near Munich dedicated specifically for development expertise of vehicle connectivity and automated driving. Upon completion, more than 2,000 employees will work in development of the autonomous iNext project on top of the already 600 employees dedicated to automated driving software.
"The road to fully-automated driving is an opportunity for Germany’s automobile manufacturing base. 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,” said Klaus Fröhlich, member of the Board of Management, responsible for Development at the BMW Group.
The iNext project will also include features like a hologram virtual touchscreen, which will make its debut at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. BMW says that this new feature gives "an impression of the mobility experience set to be offered by seamlessly connected and autonomously-driving cars in the future."
Since 2013, BMW Group Has sold more than 100,000 electric and plug-in vehicles in its three-brand portfolio. By 2020, electrified vehicles will make up more than 20 percent of the BMW lineup, including the proposed iNext project in 2021, and revamped versions of the i3 subcompact, i8 sports car, and others.
BMW hopes that it can begin testing its self-driving vehicles in Munich as early as next year, pending regulations.
The BMW iNEXT is scheduled for release in 2021 – self-driving, electric and fully connected. A whole range of highly-automated models from all BMW Group brands are set to follow. To achieve this aim, the BMW Group is combining its development expertise in vehicle connectivity and automated driving at a new campus in Unterschleissheim near Munich.
Upon final completion, more than 2,000 employees will work on the next steps towards fully-automated driving, from software development to road testing, at the new location. “The road to fully-automated driving is an opportunity for Germany’s automobile manufacturing base. 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,” explains Klaus Fröhlich, member of the Board of Management, responsible for Development at the BMW Group.
Agility as a core competence.
From mid-2017, expertise currently distributed across several different locations will be pooled in Unterschleissheim. “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,” explains Fröhlich. The new work structures will be characterised by agile teams, short distances – and, above all, short decision-making processes. At the new campus, software developers will be able to take the code they have just written across the way for testing in an actual vehicle. “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 the Development head. “The future development site for autonomous driving will enable us to launch the BMW iNEXT, the first self-driving BMW, onto the market in 2021,” according to Fröhlich. The BMW Group aims to start testing highly-automated vehicles in the urban environment, in Munich, as early as 2017.
“We do our own programming.”
The BMW Group currently employs around 600 people in development of highly-automated driving. The majority are software developers – and their number is increasing. “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.” André Müller is eager to welcome new colleagues. With the campus in Unterschleissheim, the BMW Group continues to expand its development of highly-automated vehicles and is looking for IT specialists and software developers in the areas of artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analysis.