BMW Reveals $308M Test Track for Autonomous Cars
BMW is ramping up its investment in autonomous vehicles with a new $308 million testing facility in the Czech Republic.
The Future Mobility Center is based in Sokolov in Karlovy Vary and is the company’s first development site in central Europe. It is about two-and-a-half hours from BMW’s main Research and Development Centre in Munich.
The company has already revealed the first two sections of the test track, which have been specifically designed to enhance its capabilities in “electrification, digitalization and automated driving.”
The New Technology Area covers approximately 968,751 square feet and has three separate run-up tracks. According to BMW, it has been created to provide ideal conditions for testing assistance systems and assessing vehicles’ behavior in cross traffic, as well as emergency braking and evasive situations.
The tests are prepared and controlled from an adjoining control room, which is equipped with temporary workstations.
In addition, the New Technology Area can also be used to homologate production vehicles.
The Area is joined by the 3.7-mile Autonomous Driving Highway, which is a motorway-style circuit with on- and off-ramp scenarios for testing autonomous vehicles on motorways.
The test motorway has two functional lanes and an emergency stop lane, as well as gantries and a straight stretch measuring more than 3,280 feet.
“With the early deployment of two track sections to prepare for official vehicle testing in Sokolov, we are now testing new assistance systems from the point of view of driver safety and advancing the further development of test scenarios,” said Andreas Heb, BMW Group project manager responsible for the testing ground in Sokolov.
“From mid-2023, the new test site… will operate in addition to the BMW Group’s existing testing facilities in Aschheim near Munich, Miramas in France and Arjeplog in Sweden.”
While rival Mercedes is already offering Drive Pilot Level 3 autonomous tech in Germany – where a car essentially drives itself and humans only have to be prepared to intervene as and when required – BMW is not yet at that stage.
However, the next 7 Series luxury sedan is expected to benefit from Level 3 capability, following the company’s announcement earlier this year of a long-term partnership with Qualcomm and Arriver to develop an automated driving toolkit. This is likely to arrive by 2025.
Level 3 cars do not yet have regulatory approval anywhere in the United States, although Mercedes is optimistic it will gain permission to offer its Drive Pilot tech in Nevada and California by the end of the year.