BMW Opens Autonomous Vehicle R&D Facility in Shanghai

German luxury automaker BMW is accelerating investment in China with the opening of the Shanghai Research & Development Centre, comprising four departments focusing on future mobility trends and design, including a connected and automated driving lab.

The other departments include the Technology Office China, the Digital Products & Services and Digitalization Customer Interface and the Designworks Shanghai Studio.

The connected and autonomous driving lab will develop self-driving vehicle applications and technology for China based on customer requirements and government regulations.

The company noted that about 60 engineers are in China and working on core technologies such as high-definition maps, sensors and perception, driving strategy and vehicle control, interfaces with on-demand mobility services and prototypes — as well as regulatory issues.

In May, BMW became the first OEM to obtain an autonomous driving road testing license in China, with the company boasting about 125,000 miles of simulated testing and nearly 18,500 miles of road testing in China as of this month.

The Centre covers more than 27,000 square feet and features an open-plan layout designed to foster cooperation among the members of the R&D team, which is made up of more than 200 technical specialists and designers.

The company noted all the departments of the Shanghai R&D Centre work with the company’s R&D departments around the world, focused on electric cars, autonomous vehicle development and mobility services like car-sharing.

Like many of its top-tier competitors, BMW is investing substantially in these AV and connected car technologies. In 2017, total R&D investment increased by 18.3%, hitting over $7 billion and accounting for 6.2% of the company’s annual revenue.

The company also announced BMW Connected and Baidu Internet of Vehicles would work together on home-to-vehicle technology with a service enabling customers to access vehicle information by voice control and operate certain vehicle functions from their homes.

These include the ability to check fuel levels, lock car doors through remote control, search for mobility information stored by the Connected platform, as well as plan routes and departure times in advance.

In addition, the voice control function can be activated simply using certain wake-up words.

Connected already integrates vehicles into various digital touch points, such as the iOS and Android platforms, and is powered by the BMW Open Mobility Cloud.

The service was launched in China in December 2016 and offers a range of services tailored to Chinese customers, such as making appointments for vehicle repairs and maintenance, an airport premium service, valet parking, fuel card recharging, a traffic violation query service and a payment service.

As part of BMW’s big push to offer customers highly connected and electric vehicles, the company will start production in July on a wireless charger called the GroundPad, designed for the high-voltage battery in its plug-in hybrid vehicles, starting with the 530e iPerformance sedan.

The GroundPad, which uses the same inductive charging technology already widely used for supplying power to mobile phones and electric toothbrushes, is making the wireless charging option available as a leasing-option for the 530e iPerformance, starting first in BMW’s home country, followed by the UK, the US, Japan and China.

Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter @dropdeaded209_LR.

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