The new BMW Group High Performance D3 platform. Data-Driven Development for Autonomous Driving.

Autonomous Driving at the BMW Group.

It was back in 2000 when the BMW Group first started to conduct
research into its vision of a car that people could drive themselves –
but didn’t have to. Six years later, in 2006, a BMW was following the
racing line around the Hockenheim circuit without human assistance for
the first time. Since 2011, highly automated test vehicles from the
BMW Group have been driving on the A9 motorway between Munich and
Nuremberg. And as part of the CES in 2014, the BMW Group gave a
demonstration of highly automated driving at the limits of performance
on the Las Vegas Speedway.

These are just a few of the milestones notched up by the BMW Group as
it progresses towards highly and then fully automated – i.e.
autonomous – driving.

The BMW Group is convinced that autonomous driving will have a
decisive impact on personal and sustainable mobility in the future.
Today’s driver assistance systems, such as Driving Assistant
Professional in the new BMW 3 Series Sedan, form an important building
block on the road to highly automated driving. As well as the safety
aspects, efforts are also focused on bringing about a significant gain
in comfort and a further improvement in efficiency.

The next objective has already been clearly set out: in 2021 the
production version of the BMW Vision iNEXT, which was first unveiled
to the public in summer 2018 during the BMW Vision iNEXT World Flight,
will become the first model from the BMW Group to offer a Level 3
system as an option. This system will enable drivers to delegate the
task of driving to the car for longer periods of time when driving on
the motorway at speeds up to 130 km/h (81 mph).

At the same time, a fleet of test vehicles will begin work in late
2021 with the aim of testing out Level 4 functionality – i.e. zero
driver intervention – in large-scale trials conducted in defined urban environments.


The new BMW Group High Performance D3 platform.

The launch of the new BMW Group High Performance D3
platform represents a key milestone on the BMW Group’s roadmap to
highly and fully automated driving.

The “D3” in the new IT platform’s name stands for
Data-Driven Development, which forms the basis for the development and
validation of highly and fully automated driving functions.
Data-Driven Development is an indispensable tool in securing the
safety and reliability of the Level 3 system to be offered in the BMW
iNEXT in late 2021.

The BMW Group has been applying the Data-Driven Development approach
for a couple of years now. The basic principle is rooted in the
assumption that the only way of mapping – and thereby ultimately
handling – the complexity and variety of traffic situations
encountered on every continent is to gather vast quantities of data.
This means the algorithms and overall operation of autonomous driving
have to be validated using a broad data pool.

The first step in the process is to collect approx. 5 million
kilometres (3.1 – 3.7 million miles) of real-life driving data from
the test fleet vehicles. From this data, two million kilometres
(1.25 million miles) of the most relevant driving scenarios and
environmental factors are then extracted.

The relevance of the data collected is continuously improving thanks
to the way in which qualitative data is selected using data
qualification/filtering. These two million kilometres of driving data
subsequently undergoes regular reprocessing as development progresses.
This happens whenever a new control unit integration level (I-level)
becomes available, in order to evaluate the new I‑level’s increase in performance.

This qualified two million kilometres of data is constantly expanded
by a further 240 million kilometres (150 million miles) of
simulation-generated data, which is primarily based on the relevant
driving scenarios and ensures that the immense diversity of real-life
driving is taken into account properly during development.

The reprocessing of the two million real-life kilometres and 240
million virtual kilometres requires a high performance data platform
of over 230 petabytes storage capacity and the computing power of more
than 100,000 cores and more than 200 GPUs (Graphics Processing
There is a 96 x 100Gbps connection between the BMW Group
High Performance D3 platform and the Hardware-in-the-Loop
(HiL) stations located at the BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus. The
net useable data rate is approx. 3.75 Terabit/s.

The fleet currently numbers around 80 BMW 7 Series cars, which are in
operation on the west coast of the USA, in Germany, Israel and China.
The number of vehicles is set to increase to approx. 140 by the end of 2019.

Below are some figures to illustrate the capabilities of the BMW
Group High Performance D3 platform:

  • Daily collection of more than 1.500 TB raw data
  • D3 Platform storage capacity of more than 230 PB
  • Compute: 100.000 Cores and 200 GPU´s
  • 50 PB to HiLs every two weeks

To give an idea of the quantities of data that have to be
transferred: 1.500 TB new data is equivalent of 23.000 iPhone X, 230
PB equal the volume of 45 apartments (approx. 80m², ceiling height 3m)
filled entirely with CDs.

A bandwidth of 3.75 Tbit/s is roughly enough to broadcast one million
HD television programmes simultaneously – or allow one million homes
to watch one HD TV programme at the same time.

The BMW Group High Performance D3 platform was completed
in the space of a few months, in function, on time and on budget. It
is sited just a few kilometres away from the BMW Group Autonomous
Driving Campus in Unterschleißheim near Munich. The close proximity
was an essential part of the plan to transfer the enormous quantities
of data from the Campus to the platform via cable.


Strong Partners.

When production development for autonomous driving got underway at
the BMW Group, one thing was certain: the tremendous challenges
involved in the development of a secure platform for highly and fully
automated driving could only be overcome by teaming up with the
leading technology partners in the various disciplines.

In the case of the BMW Group High Performance D3 platform,
this partner is DXC Technology. The core component of DXC’s work is to
setup and run the data centre and to develop applications with the
objective to support the autonomous driving development process. The
aim is to reduce costs and the time needed until the system is ready
to market.

The digital solutions from DXC put the BMW Group’s development teams
in a position to collect, store and manage the data from vehicle
sensors – and make it available for the requisite AI training – in a
matter of seconds rather than days or even weeks.

The DXC solution was developed in an open source environment and is
available on-premise and in a hybrid environment, allowing workloads
to be shifted easily. This paves the way for agile cooperation between
engineers, regardless of their location.

Using a single platform for data storage, processing and AI training
lowers the hardware and software requirements, thereby reducing costs
and complexity. Data can be gathered globally but monitored centrally.
This has the effect of maximising efficiency and cutting costs.


The BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus.

The BMW Group Autonomous Driving Campus is a state-of-the-art centre
of excellence that covers every base when it comes to offering greater
capacity for innovation and increased development efficiency – and
ultimately securing the company’s future sustainability.

In autumn 2017 the first group of engineers moved into the new
building, which celebrated its official opening in April 2018.

“We want to play a leading role in the development of safe autonomous
driving,” said Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of
BMW AG, responsible for Development, at the time. “We are pursuing
this goal with great diligence and systematically establishing the
necessary framework along the way. One of the milestones is our
Autonomous Driving Campus.”

It was 15 months before the official opening that the BMW Group took
the decision to pool together its development expertise in the fields
of driver assistance systems and highly / fully automated driving at a
single location. The Campus, which offers 23,000 square metres of
office space with room for 1,800 employees, was completed in record time. 

When searching for an appropriate location, the site’s excellent
infrastructure, its proximity to the BMW Group Research and Innovation
Centre, nearby links to the motorway network and finally the speed
with which work could begin tipped the balance in its favour.


New working environments. 

The Autonomous Driving Campus offers the development experts who work
here new and modern working environments – i.e. an open-plan layout,
intelligent and flexible use of office space, and a multifaceted and
creative workplace. The benefits for the development experts employed
here are clear: flexibility, efficiency, a high level of autonomy and
short distances. This means, for example, that a software developer
working at the new Campus can immediately test out freshly written
code in a vehicle that is just a short walk away.

New working environments go hand in hand with a new and agile
employee and management culture, and managers work in the same
open-plan office spaces as their staff. This enhances interaction and
facilitates communications, resulting in effective teamwork in the
development of highly complex products.


Campus leads the way in agile working methods.

The open campus structure offers excellent conditions for agile
working models. These represent an important building block in the
creation of future-focused and efficient development processes. The
BMW Group is the first company in the automotive industry to apply
agile working models systematically and universally for an entire
specialist area. From the research phase all the way through to series
production development, the whole development process for driver
assistance systems and autonomous driving unfolds within these new structures. 

Small interdisciplinary feature teams work on individual
sub-processes independently and with an end-to-end approach. The high
degree of flexibility allows the teams to react quickly and
effectively to new requirements.

Indeed, this speeds up the entire software development process and
allows it to handle extremely high levels of complexity. 

This is a time of disruptive change in the automotive industry, with
the arrival of new players making the competitive environment ever
more challenging. The pace of innovation is accelerating rapidly and
professionals cite future viability, a modern working environment and
flexible, agile workflows as key to an employer’s attractiveness. A
cutting-edge development facility such as the new BMW Group Autonomous
Driving Campus therefore represents a crucial asset for the company’s
long-term sustainability and innovative capability.