The recent rash of fatalities caused by self-driving cars has amounted to little more than a speed bump in the ongoing race for autonomous perfection, with BMW coming out as the latest company to put the tragedies thoroughly in its rearview mirror.
The German automaker opened its “center for excellence” last week, a 247,569-square-foot facility dedicated to autonomous car testing and research.
The massive proving ground will provide a setting for the BMW Group to continue developing its line of iNext vehicles—a collection of fully-connected, self-driving, all-electric models offered across the BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce brands the group produces—which are due to hit the market in 2021.
Nearly 1,800 employees are expected to report to the Unterschleißheim facility, located just outside Munich—but BMW officials say they hope the large number won’t deter the staffers from working with as many of their colleagues as possible.
The campus was designed with an open-plan layout and other flexible office space ideas to highly encourage peer-to-peer interaction, company officials said, allowing for the type of teamwork that would facilitate, for example, a software developer to test out a new code in a matter of minutes and just a few steps. The point is to increase not just efficiency but timeliness, with the 2021 deadline quickly approaching.
Of course, the center has plenty of space for the autonomous cars themselves to play on, as well—and to that end, BMW needs all the acreage it can get. The company announced last month that it would double the size of its self-driving fleet this year—with the declaration coming just days after an Arizona woman was mowed down and killed by an autonomous car.
Still, with the automaker deeming the iNext rollout—and the development of autonomous tech in general—as “a crucial asset for the company’s long-term sustainability,” it seems very little will steer BMW away from the self-driving path.