With the BMW iNEXT scheduled to come in 2021, with full self-driving, electric and fully connected vehicles to be revealed, it is paramount for the car maker to create the surroundings to make that plan a reality. BMW plans to showcase a wide range of highly-automated models from all BMW Group brands, starting with 2021, whereas it’s important for the engineeres and designers (alongside all the other employees needed to make such a feat possible) to have a proper home to do their work. Consequently, in order to make this plan a reality, the BMW Group is combining its development expertise in vehicle connectivity and automated driving at a new campus in Unterschleissheim near Munich.
When the site is completed, it will be a working home for more than 2,000 employees, all working 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
Starting in mid-2017, the company will pool all the expertise currently distributed across several different locations at the site 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.
In the new structure, there will be new work organization favoring work done with 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 and go 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. For highly-automated vehicles in the urban environment, The BMW Group aims to start testing in Munich as early as 2017. and give their customers all they need rather soon.
“We do our own programming.”
Currently, the BMW Group employs around 600 people in development of highly-automated driving. While not much, the number is sufficient – but, only currently that is. The majority of these engineers are software developers – and their number is increasing – in order to meet deadlines, high-quality requirements and the timeframe available. “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.
It is safe to say that with this 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. Hopefully, this will result in some much-needed Tesla Model S / Model X competitors rather fast, as BMW really is lagging in some areas, when compared to fully electric car / autonomous car makers out there.