German car manufacturing colossus BMW has accelerated its efforts to develop autonomous driving technologies by announcing that it plans to construct a test track for self-driving cars in the Czech Republic. The estimated cost of the track is rumored to be around €100m.
The erection of the self-driving test track represents BMW's first in Eastern Europe and has been warmly welcomed in the Czech Republic. It will deliver a significant boost to the country's economy with the new self-driving project expected to create around 700 new jobs. It has been claimed that lower costs were the deciding factor in BMW moving operations from Germany to the Czech Republic.
Local media reports in Prague have suggested that the project is expected to be complete by 2020 and construction works will commence on the self-driving track facility early next year. Properties owned by the German automotive firm in locations close to its HQ in Munich, France and Sweden have been deemed no longer sufficient to accommodate the carmaker's expanding tests of self-driving cars.
BMW has established itself as a leading player in the self-driving sector which is still a very nascent industry. However, it firmly believes that autonomy represents the future of the automotive industry and is determined to be a major player as the technology evolves and consumer trust in self-driving cars improves.
BMW has been in a partnership agreement with a consortium of businesses which include Intel, Mobileye, Delphi, Continental and Fiat Chrysler. The entities have combined their expertise in a bid to accelerate the development of self-driving technology. BMW whose group also includes Rolls-Royce and MINI intends to introduce its first highly automated iNEXT model in 2021. In addition to this, it has also unveiled plans to increase battery-powered offerings to 25 models by 2025.
"Today, we are on the threshold of automated driving," Herbert Grebenc, BMW's head of real estate management said in written remarks prepared for delivery at a news conference in Prague. "This means making massive investments in our future."
Projects at the 500-hectare (1,200-acre) Sokolov site near the German border, picked out of 82 potential locations, will include the testing of driver-assistance and braking systems, Grebenc said.