BMW's new test track isn't for top speed runs.
BMW has started construction on what it hopes will be the future of its advanced driver assistance technology. Two track sections are being built at a Sokolov facility in the Czech Republic. For now, only those two track sections are operational, with the rest of the test facility to come online by summer, 2023. However, the facility is not just for self-driving.
BMW will also use it to test electric models like the BMW i7, as well as "digitalization." BMW did not elaborate on what that meant. Currently, the 7 Series is the only BMW model with Level 3+ self-driving capability. For the Bavarian brand, proximity is key, with the facility only 2.5 hours from its front door in Munich, Germany.
BMW said in a press release that the facility will have a total of 100 employees on site, with the ground comprised of three main testing lanes. Those will allow for testing of cross-traffic, emergency braking, and evasive situations. These will not only improve autonomous capabilities but also BMW's active safety features found in many of its models.
"With the early deployment of two track sections to prepare for official vehicle testing in Solokov, we are now testing new assistance systems from the point of view of driver safety and advancing the further development of test scenarios," explains Andreas Heb, the project manager responsible for the new testing ground in Sokolov.
One of the lanes is a 3.7-mile stretch of asphalt built to mimic a highway, complete with on and off ramps. BMW has also added an emergency lane, gantries, and a 3,280-foot straight. The "highway" is comprised of two lanes, which should be enough to test BMW's autonomous capabilities, and will accurately simulate the construction of highways across the globe.
BMW is not often a name that comes up during discussion of autonomous driving tech. More often, names like Tesla, Ford, and General Motors dominate that conversation. However, part of that can be attributed to BMW's relatively slow adoption of Level 3 and above self-driving systems.
That said, it will be interesting to see how quickly BMW is able to become a player in the space, taking on German competition like Mercedes-Benz.