BMW i7 Can Drive Itself Off The Production Line

Technology / Comments

New tech has BMW's 7 Series driving around the plant without a driver.

BMW Startup Garage is a division of the BMW Group dedicated to joining forces with young tech companies.

It recently announced a partnership with Seoul Robotics and Embotech, enabling its BMW 7 Series to wander around the plant autonomously. BMW's collaboration with these two companies will "enhance the efficiency of new-vehicle logistics in plants and distribution centers."

BMW calls this new system the Automated Driving In-Plant project, or Automatisiertes Fahren im Werk (AFW). It aims to move vehicles autonomously around logistics areas and assembly - safely, efficiently, and without requiring a driver.

The pilot program will launch this month at the BMW Group Plant Dingolfing in Germany, responsible for 7 Series and i7 production.


"Automated driving within the plant is fundamentally different from autonomous driving for customers. It doesn't use sensors in the vehicle. In fact, the car itself is more or less blind and the sensors for maneuvering them are integrated along the route through the plant," explains BMW Group project manager Sascha Andree.

The sensor infrastructure is built into the plant environment and can detect obstacles in the car's path. It connects to the car via drive-planning software that transmits controlled commands to the driverless vehicles via mobile communications.

The first phase of AFW is limited. The cars will only be allowed to drive autonomously from the assembly area to logistics, where they'll be loaded onto a truck or train. The system does have the ability to navigate the car just after the first ignition, however.

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Seoul Robotics uses static monitoring sensors to create a digital copy of the plant environment. It can classify objects, while Embotech's drive-planning software steers, brakes, accelerates, and parks the driverless vehicles. The routes are calculated in real-time, which means the cars aren't following a set path. Each vehicle will be able to respond differently to its surroundings.

"This collaboration, with two young startups and an OEM like the BMW Group working together on a single project, is probably the first of its kind," says HanBin Lee, CEO of Seoul Robotics. "Without the BMW Startup Garage, we would never have been able to evaluate and test our solution," says Alexander Domahidi, co-founder and CTO of Embotech.

The pilot project will run at Dingolfing for several months, after which it will be moved to other models and plants.


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