Construction began on the BMW Group’s new Driving Simulation Centre, in Munich’s Milbertshofen district, in mid-August. When complete, the company claims it will be the world’s most advanced facility for the simulation of real-world driving situations at the FIZ Research and Innovation Centre in the north of the city. The building is intended to provide unique possibilities for virtual testing of advanced driving assistance systems and innovative display and control concepts.

A unique feature of the facility is the high-fidelity simulator, in which longitudinal, transverse, and rotational movements of a vehicle can be represented simultaneously, and therefore realistically. This allows the BMW engineers to “bring the road into the lab.” Urban driving situations will also be reproduced realistically.

Construction of the Driving Simulation Centre is part of the FIZ Future masterplan, which calls for the BMW Group’s central development facility to grow by approximately 50% through several stages up to 2050. The foundation stone for the first phase was laid in autumn 2017 and now the start of work on the new Driving Simulation Centre marks a further stage in the project. It is being built in a central area between the Projekthaus and the Aerodynamic Test Centre. Covering a total floor area of 11,400 m2 (122,709 ft2), the facility will contain 14 simulators and usability labs employing 157 people. BMW Group Research is planning to start work there in 2020. The investment in the new Driving Simulation Centre is estimated at approximately 100 million euros.

At the heart of the Driving Simulation Centre are two driving simulators designed to meet requirements for testing highly complex automated driving systems. The new high-dynamic simulator can generate longitudinal and transverse acceleration forces of up to 1.0 g. It is used to test new systems and functions by replicating highly dynamic evading maneuvers, full braking, and hard acceleration. A detailed rendering of real-world driving characteristics is provided by the second unit, the high-fidelity simulator: braking and accelerating while cornering, driving in roundabouts, and rapid series of multiple turn-off maneuvers can be reproduced with high precision in the simulator’s almost 400 m2 (4306 ft2) motion area.

The systems to be tested are fitted in a vehicle mock-up attached to a platform inside the dome of the driving simulator. Mounted on an electromechanical hexapod system, the dome can be moved both longitudinally and transversely by an electric drive while also being turned. To give drivers a realistic visual experience of the simulated driving situation, the dome housing the mock-up is equipped with a projection screen. Precise synchronization of the projected driving images with the movements of the vehicle creates a highly realistic perception of the simulated driving situation, in which the visual impressions of what is happening on the road and the longitudinal, transverse, and vertical acceleration forces acting on the test person merge to create an almost flawless overall dynamic impression. The virtual test drive scenario is completed by a sound simulation that is also matched precisely to the situation portrayed.

To establish both the functional reliability of new systems and their usability, the virtual test drives in the Driving Simulation Centre will be conducted not only by the development engineers and professional test drivers, but also by customers on a regular basis. Analysis of their driving behavior in the simulator and their own subsequent assessment provide important findings for the development process as it progresses. This means that, long before the first mile of actual road driving has been performed, the new Driving Simulation Centre is able to indicate clearly how well a new system will stand up to the everyday reality of a vehicle’s life on the road.