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AAPC Sideprogram - Visit of the BMW Group Research and Innovation Centre in Munich (FIZ)

Background information on the BMW Group Research and Innovation Centre in Munich including information on the Aerodynamic Test Centre, on the EMC Absorber Hall for testing of electromagnetic compatibility and on Virtual Reality in the development progress.

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BMW Group Research and Innovation network

 

The Driving Force: A Passion for Innovation

In the automotive industry, the days of the lone inventor are long gone. Today, new products are created by entire teams of individuals who all contribute directly via efficient processes and close connections between the various departments. It’s this collaborative approach that makes the BMW Group and its BMW, MINI, Rolls-Royce and BMW Motorrad brands so successful.

To recognize trends early and deliver customized solutions to address them, the BMW Group needs to be in constant direct contact with all of its key markets. To do this, it runs a global research network with fifteen locations around the world, keeping its finger on the pulse at all times. These innovation centres work closely with the Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) in Munich, acting as service providers and driving activities.

 

The BMW Group Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ)

The FIZ is one of the most cutting-edge development centres in the global automotive industry and a key interface between technical and creative R&D activities. The team there works on a broad spectrum of topics, ranging from product development logistics and manufacturing processes to engines, alternative drives, future materials, future mobility concepts, electro-mobility and autonomous driving. Their findings support the BMW, MINI Rolls-Royce and BMW Motorrad brands as well as BMW M and BMW i sub-brands.

 

Built in 1986, the FIZ was initially designed for about 4,000 employees. Its unique honeycomb-like layout supports effective communications by keeping distances between employees short. It therefore reflects the importance of interpersonal exchanges as contributors to innovation. In 2004, the Projekthaus was added to the complex, with a layout designed to support the entire BMW Group Product Evolution Process. The Projekthaus brings together all of the BMW Group’s functional areas, such as Development, Production and Purchasing, in a single project area.

 

FIZ Future: Long-term Optimization and Expansion of the FIZ

In spite of numerous extensions, the Munich FIZ constantly operates at the limit of its capacity. Though originally built for 4,000 employees, it currently houses more than 26,000!

Over the medium to longer term, as the BMW Group continues to grow, as technologies change (e.g. electric mobility, new materials and increasing connectivity) and new working time and workplace models are introduced, working space will need to be restructured and reorganised. Plans are currently under way to extend the BMW Group Research & Innovation Centre, FIZ, in Munich. Based on an assessment of the company’s emerging needs, the FIZ Future project is devising a master plan that will set the framework for the coordinated enhancement of the facility.

 

The Worldwide Research and Innovation network of the BMW Group

The FIZ is the BMW Group’s largest development facility by far – but when it comes to innovation, the worldwide R&D network is essential.

The BMW Group operates relevant facilities across the globe. In the US, the BMW Group Technology Office in Mountain View, the Engineering and Emission Test Centre in Oxnard and BMW Designworks USA in Newbury Park form what’s known as the California Innovation Triangle. The BMW Group Development Office USA is located in Montvale, a few steps from the sales department of North-, Middle- and South America in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.

A few steps from the sales department of North-, Middle-, and South America in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, is the BMW Group Development Office USA in Montvale located .China has development offices in Shenyang, Beijing and Shanghai, and a BMW Group Technology Office is based in Tokyo, Japan.

 

In the BMW Group’s centre of excellence for diesel technologies in Steyr, Austria, all BMW Diesel engines have been developed. The cooperation between production specialists and suppliers begins in the earliest stages of development. The same happens at the Landshut Innovation and Technology Centre, Germany, where specialists in lightweight construction technologies work on innovative materials and their associated production processes. Strategically located between vehicle development and production, this centre allows the team’s expertise to be integrated directly into the design and production of new components and vehicles.

 

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Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)

 

The BMW Group runs two EMC absorber halls to test the electromagnetic compatibility of all the systems found in complete vehicle. Located at the Munich Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ), the facilities offer not only reproducible lab conditions but also dynamic driving simulations. With that, the potential interaction of various electronic systems and assistance functions can be simulated and practically tested on the basis of realistic driving situations. Trials shed light on how the various electronic systems and assistance functions interact in realistically driving simulations, and on the practical implications.

The larger of the two halls is 29 metres long, 17 metres wide and 11 metres high. Equipment includes a roller dynamometer and computer-controlled, moving mock-ups, which the engineers use to test how driving stability systems are activated and driver assistance systems intervene at precisely defined speeds. Movable antenna systems on the ceilings of the test chambers generate the electromagnetic fields required; outside, the hall is shielded to prevent external influences from affecting measurements.

From the absolute reliability of chassis control and assistance systems to interference-free phone, radio, TV and navigation reception, the EMC halls allow the full spectrum of systems to validated within the context of the complete vehicle. The two facilities perform about 450 vehicle tests a year, ensuring the quality and overall reliability of BMW Group products in the face of the ever greater challenges of electromagnetic compatibility.

 

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The Aerodynamic Test Center (AVZ)

 

One of the most important additions to the Research- and Innovation Center (FIZ) was the Aerodynamic Test Center (AVZ).

Built in 2006 and inaugurated in 2009, the AVZ was an investment of 170 million euros. It is used to test the aerodynamics of full-size vehicle models, prototypes and series vehicles. To reflect actual driving conditions as fully as possible, vehicles are fixed to a measuring point and exposed to an airstream 8 meters in diameter. Rollers beneath the wheels simulate their rotation, allowing the flow-split – the amount of air passing over, under and around the sides of the vehicle – to be measured. This method is much more efficient than that employed in conventional wind tunnels and allows the effects to be gauged on overall air resistance of detail optimizations, aerodynamic balance, and the supply and removal of cooling air. Maximum inflow velocity is 300 kilometers per hour.

 

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BMW opts to incorporate HTC Vive VR headsets and mixed reality into the development of new vehicle models. Computer images instead of laboriously constructed draft models: greater flexibility, faster results and lower costs.

 

BMW has become the first car manufacturer to introduce in 2016 a mixed reality system into vehicle development that has been devised entirely using components from the computer games industry. This offers some significant advantages over the VR systems that have existed to date, and is the first step towards making virtual reality a very real part of many developer workstations in the not-too-distant future.

 

The adoption of this computer system makes it possible to save a great deal of time and effort, especially during the early stages of development. VR investigations could previously only be conducted at costly specialised facilities. By incorporating consumer electronics, the developers gain an unprecedented degree of flexibility, because any modifications can be implemented and tested very quickly. In addition to this, developers around the globe will be able to take part in the decision-making process from their own office without having to travel too far. Only once the draft designs have been approved with the help of the 3D headsets will they actually be built for further testing.

 

BMW has been employing VR systems in the development process since the 1990s. It is now reaffirming its pioneering status by systematically implementing technology from a sector which has not previously been the focal point of industrial applications. Since this spring, components from the computer games industry have been allowing engineers and designers to immerse themselves more and more often in virtual worlds that are increasingly realistic. The shorter innovation cycles of consumer electronics result in a far wider scope of functions together with lower costs. This thereby enables more vehicle functions to be translated to a VR model in ever more realistic fashion. It is furthermore possible to scale the system to many different developer workstations with little effort.

 

This lends itself ideally to the BMW strategy with its focus on innovative technologies and digitisation. Vehicle functions and new interior designs can quickly be modelled with the aid of the visual experiences. This makes it possible to simulate drives through a city while testing what the all-round view of the surrounding area is like or whether a display is poorly legible or awkward to reach depending on the viewing angle or seat position. All the time, the development engineer has the impression of sitting in a real car in a real driving situation.

 

Following thorough evaluation over the course of 2015, BMW has opted to implement the most powerful solutions currently available. Thanks to the timely support provided by mobile computing manufacturer HTC, several HTC Vive developer kits have already been in use in pilot projects since autumn 2015.

 

This headset’s core components consist of two high-resolution screens and a laser-based tracking system that covers an area of 5 x 5 metres in the BMW application. The graphics are computed by software that normally serves to produce the very best computer gaming graphics. BMW uses Unreal Engine 4 from Epic Games for this task. This enables stable rendering of 90 frames per second while achieving photo-realistic quality, too. The computation is performed using high-end gaming computers with water-cooled, overclocked components (including Intel Core i7 and two Nvidia Titan X graphic cards). Further advances are expected in terms of both the headset hardware and software, and these will be evaluated at regular intervals.

 

Visual sensations alone are not enough though. For this reason, BMW employs a reusable interior assembly which, thanks to the use of rapid prototyping, further enhances perception by producing a mixed reality experience. Precise, stereoscopic acoustic playback, e.g. for the characteristic BMW engine sound, further intensifies the immersive experience. This, combined with the VR model enables to experience the vehicle in different environments. The completely realistic vehicle impression produced by this method is so far unique in the automotive industry.

 

The HTC Vive Lighthouse tracking system that is used floods the room with an invisible light field that is tracked by sensors on the VR headset and the controllers. The system’s lasers refresh the tracking field at intervals of just a few milliseconds, thereby enabling ultra-precise tracking of every body movement and even the slightest alteration in the viewing direction. It is thanks to this supremely accurate and stable tracking that the wearer is able to move around in the virtual environment with zero interference – this is essential not just for creating a spatial impression that is as true to life as possible and maximising the level of immersion, but also for making the VR headset easy to get accustomed to. The overall mixed reality system that was developed in-house by BMW ensures optimum interaction between the individual devices and components, such as the VR model, rapid prototyping, the VR headset and tracking.

 

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