The pilot project is expected to last several months before expanding and rolling out to other manufacturing facilities
BMW has launched a new pilot that will see the cars run autonomously during production.
The idea is to improve the efficiency of manufacturing plants and distribution centers by removing the need for drivers at certain stages of the production process.
BMW Startup Garage – a venture customer of the BMW Group – partnered with Seoul Robotics of South Korea and Embotech of Switzerland for the trial.
The factory automated driving project – Automatisiertes Fahren im Werk in German, or AFW for short – is taking place at the company’s factory in Dingolfing, southern Bavaria, Germany, and will see the 7 Series and the ‘i7 Electric will maneuver around specific areas.
But the technology used is not comparable to what we have become accustomed to on production vehicles with autonomous functionality on public roads.
BMW Group project manager Sascha Andree explained: “Automated driving within the factory is fundamentally different from autonomous driving for customers. It does not use sensors in the vehicle. In fact, the car itself is more or less blind, and the sensors to maneuver them are integrated throughout the route through the factory.
AFW is based on two key technologies: a sensor infrastructure that supports vehicle location and can detect potential obstacles, and drive planning software that transmits controlled commands to the driverless 7 and i7 Series via mobile communications. .
Initially, vehicles will only move to the staging area, then to a parking area, ready for their journey by train or truck. But in reality, it is possible to use the technology as soon as the cars are able to drive independently in the production process.
Seoul Robotics provides lidar sensing software, which uses static monitoring sensors to create a digital twin of the environment, while Embotech’s software can steer, brake, accelerate and park driverless vehicles. Routes are calculated in real time, with each car able to react independently to its surroundings rather than having to be programmed.
The pilot project is expected to last several months and will be expanded to include additional models at Dingolfing, before being rolled out to other BMW manufacturing plants.
The company has previous experience in testing cutting-edge technologies at Dingolfing to make manufacturing more efficient, having used artificial intelligence applications to compare order data with a live image of newly produced car specifications and to improve quality control in the paint shop.