2018.09.06. BMW builds highly sophisticated system for vehicle simulation

To thoroughly test the vehicles of tomorrow with their complex electronics, engineers are increasingly using virtual test drives in the simulator. Hundreds of variants of the vehicle in all possible driving situations are played through with immense effort in hardware and software - long before even a prototype of the car exists. In Munich, BMW is now building a huge facility just for such simulations.

With the new system, which is scheduled to go into operation in 2020, BMW intends to strengthen its development expertise in the field of autonomous driving. Using highly dynamic simulations of real driving situations, the engineers want to carry out virtual tests of future HMI concepts and displays as well as driver assistance and driving automation systems. A special highlight in the facility will be the "High Fidelity Simulator", in which longitudinal, transverse and rotational movements of a vehicle can be performed simultaneously and thus very realistically. For the first time, the situations of inner-city traffic, which are particularly demanding in the context of automated driving, can also be reproduced in a realistic manner.

The construction of the new driving simulation center is part of the FIZ Future master plan, with which BMW’s central development center is to grow in several stages by around 50 percent by 2050. The foundation stone for construction phase I was laid in autumn 2017. The driving simulator is intended to serve as a link between the functional tests for individual hardware and software components and the driving test with complete systems on the road.

At the heart of the new driving simulation centre are two new types of systems that are specially designed to meet the requirements of testing highly complex systems for automated driving. With the High Dynamic Simulator, longitudinal and lateral accelerations of up to 1.0 g can be generated. It is used to test new systems and functions to illustrate highly dynamic evasive manoeuvres, emergency braking and intensive acceleration processes.

The second simulator, which has the attribute High Fidelity (high fidelity), displays the real driving action in particular detail: Braking and accelerating in curves, driving in roundabouts or the fast sequence of several turning manoeuvres can be simulated with high precision on the almost 400 square meter large movement field of this system. For the first time, complex inner-city traffic situations, which present particularly diverse challenges for automated driving systems, can be presented under laboratory conditions.


VR for the really demanding clientele: The development engineers of cars. In BMW's new simulation center they will push their cars to the limits - and the graphics systems as well

The tests take place in a platform of the driving simulator, which is designed as a dome. There, the systems to be tested are installed in a permanently mounted vehicle model. The dome is mounted on an electromechanical hexapod system and can be moved and simultaneously rotated in longitudinal and transverse direction via an additional electric drive. In order to give the drivers a realistic visual impression of the simulated traffic situation, a projection screen is integrated in the “cathedral” in which the vehicle is standing. A precise synchronisation of the projected images of traffic events with the movements of the vehicle model ensures a very realistic perception of the simulated driving situation, in which the optical impressions and the longitudinal, transverse and vertical accelerations acting on the test person merge into a dynamic, almost perfect overall impression. The virtual test drive scenario is completed by a noise simulation that is also exactly matched to the simulated situation.

this way, conditions can be created that today can only be experienced with real test vehicles on the road. When optimizing innovative vehicle systems, laboratory testing also offers the advantage that driving situations can be reproduced at will. This significantly increases the informative value of the evaluated test results. In addition, the driving simulator can also be used to run through test scenarios that occur only rarely and under unusual circumstances in real traffic or that would be associated with hazards and therefore cannot be used in real traffic situations for testing purposes. In return, findings from test drives on the road can be tested and validated in the laboratory by means of a realistic simulation.

Individual aspects of the respective scenarios can be varied and combined as desired. For example, the configuration of a new driver assistance system can be tested at an early stage under various conditions in order to find the ideal balance between dynamic and comfort characteristics before the first test on the road. New display and operating systems can also be tested in a variety of situations to analyse the risk of distraction for the driver or the effect of optical, acoustic and haptic signals.

During the simulated rides, not only the developers themselves or professional test drivers are at the wheel, but also external test persons. The analysis of their driving behaviour in the simulator and their subsequent assessment provide important insights for further development. In the new driving simulation centre, it becomes clear long before the first kilometre on the road how a new system will perform in everyday traffic practice.



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