The BMW Group Forschungs- und Innovationszentrum sought a new process of developing vehicles – with improved efficiency, and with better knowledge of how well that vehicle would match the user expectations. While simulation seemed to offer an option, the subject of simulation was relatively new to the automotive industry. Furthermore, given the rapid;-changing dynamics of road vehicles, and the extremely sensitive nature of the human perception system, it became challenging for BMW to realise a truly realistic simulator that would meet those driver expectations.
The first step was to understand the user needs: How are vehicles designed and assessed, and how do these scientific results feed back into the design process? How does the driver perceive motion and visual information, and how is this used to control the vehicle?
A team was assembled to develop these requirements, which included the driver but also the simulator user and facility. A key factor was the need to rapidly exchange the test vehicles in the simulator, and above all, to always ensure safety of operations.
Over the course of two years, an impressive simulator was built, utilising a carbon-fibre dome mounted on an electric motion system. The dome was illuminated with a series of projectors, covering the front and rear-view areas. A specialised mechanism to rapidly and securely replace the car mock-ups was realised. All safety, electrical and air conditioning systems were also installed.
This simulator, developed under the leadership of IDT, became BMW’s first exposure to high-fidelity driving simulators. It continues to be utilised for driver-vehicle systems design and assessments.