The BMW Group is creating every opportunity for its vehicle research and development engineers to simulate and test the product requirements of the future under realistic conditions with its new Driving Simulation Centre. With 14 simulators and usability labs covering an area of 11,400 square metres, it is the most advanced and diversified simulation centre in the automotive industry.
As Michael Brachvogel, Head of BMW Group Research Interiors, User Interaction, User Experience and Driving Simulation, explains, “The aim of the new centre is to provide the ideal simulation tool for every area and every phase of the vehicle development process, all under one roof.” The focus on the customer in the development stage is also being raised to a whole new level. “We can perform test drives for studies with up to 100 test persons per day,” says Brachvogel.
The optimum simulation tool for every stage of development.
From the early concept phase through to the final function validation stage, the centre provides the various specialist areas in vehicle development with an ideal simulation tool. Facilities range from static simulators without a motion system to the high-fidelity simulator, which transports the road into the lab to remarkably realistic effect with its nearly 400 square metres of motion area. Whether it’s innovative entertainment technologies and display and operating concepts, multimodal interaction between occupants and vehicle, fine-tuning of the chassis, or wide-ranging driver assistance functions all the way up to interior scenarios for fully automated driving – virtually every aspect of car development can be tested here in terms of suitability for the customer. The virtual test drives are regularly performed by external test persons and not just by BMW Group engineers.
Simulated testing of every last detail: sampling driving pleasure in virtual form.
For years now, driving simulation has played a key role in driving dynamics development at the BMW Group. The new Driving Simulation Centre will enable the virtual development process to be further expanded, reducing the number of prototypes that need to be built as well as the duration of the development cycle. Tyres or entire axles can be swapped in a matter of seconds and test routes all over the world selected at the push of a button in the driving simulator. It’s even possible to seamlessly transition from summer to winter. All the various influencing factors can be reproduced with a high degree of accuracy in the simulation.
The new Driving Simulation Centre is the perfect response to the ever-increasing demands involved in developing intelligent, highly connected vehicles. New display and operating concepts can be subjected to intensive testing to analyse the risk of driver distraction or the effectiveness of the multimodal control methods.
Driving simulation offers major advantages for the development of future driver assistance systems and automation functionalities, in particular. Road situations that involve risk or occur only rarely in real-life driving are almost impossible to test on the road. In the simulator, they can be replicated safely and in great detail as often as required. And individual aspects of scenarios can be varied and combined with one another as desired. The upshot is that complex systems can be tested under varying, realistic conditions before road-testing has even started.
Thanks to an installation concept featuring an ingenious transportation and docking system, all the simulators can be used on the same day with different vehicle models if required. The centre thereby offers a high level of flexibility for all specialist areas of development, while also enabling maximum utilisation of capacity.
Total immersion: the Seamless Simulator Experience.
The BMW Group’s driving simulation experts have devised a Seamless Simulator Experience in order to offer test persons an even more realistic simulated experience and therefore increase the validity of results. In future, test persons in selected studies will wear a VR headset as they make their way to the simulator. They will be in a virtual BMW or MINI dealership, for example, with the vehicle parked in front of the dealership ready for the test drive. While they walk through the virtual space, they are actually moving towards the driving simulator. They only remove the headset immediately before entering the simulator.
High-tech on an impressive scale: the high-fidelity and high-dynamic simulators. The high-fidelity and high-dynamic simulators are the standout highlights of the new Driving Simulation Centre, both visually and technologically. They create the type of test conditions that in the past could only be experienced with actual test vehicles on the road. Besides targeted optimisation of innovative user functions, testing in the lab has the added benefit of making it possible to reproduce specific driving situations as often as required, significantly increasing the validity of the evaluated test results. The driving simulators can also be used for acting out test scenarios that seldom occur in real-life driving and only under unusual circumstances, or that involve an element of danger and therefore cannot be recreated for test purposes alone out on an actual road. However, findings from on-road testing can be checked and validated by means of realistic simulations in the lab.
Completion of a major project in challenging times.
Construction of the world’s most sophisticated facility for simulating real-life driving situations got underway at the Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) site in the north of Munich in mid-August 2018. Despite the extensive global restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic, building work was completed on schedule in May 2020. Since then, installation of the simulators has been progressing apace.