BMW has announced it is to construct a proving ground in Prague in the Czech Republic. The roughly 500ha property will be located in Sokolov in the Karlovy Vary region, close to the German town of Waldsassen and about two-and-a-half hours’ drive from the BMW Group’s R&D Centre in Munich, Germany.
The proving ground, which will create several hundred jobs, is slated to go into operation early in the next decade. Total investment will be in the three-digit million-dollar range.
Dr Herbert Grebenc, BMW, human resources, senior VP real estate management, corporate security, said, “The BMW Group is at the vanguard of technology. As an innovation driver, we aim to offer customers the best, most emotional mobility experience and create digital connections between people, vehicles and services.
“At the planned proving facility in Sokolov, we will continue to advance groundbreaking topics, such as electrification, digitization and automated driving – for example, through safety testing for assistance systems.”
The BMW Group’s existing facilities in Aschheim, near Munich; Miramas (France) and Arjeplog (Sweden) no longer have sufficient capacity to meet testing requirements. The company has therefore explored possible strategic locations in Germany and neighboring countries. Grebenc explained the decision to locate in the Czech Republic: “We found the ideal conditions and grounds we need for vehicle testing in Sokolov. Opening our first development location in Eastern Europe will create new opportunities and marks a milestone in the history of our company. Working with the property owner Sokolovská uhelná and all political representatives has been extremely positive so far and is based on mutual trust.”
Jana Vildumetzová, president of the Karlovy Vary region, said, “The plans of such a major investor as German automobile manufacturer, the BMW Group, are very important to the Karlovy Vary region. Our region is one of three in the Czech Republic undergoing structural change. There is a lack of research, development and innovation and we are struggling with a shortage of jobs.
“The district of Sokolov will see a gradual decline in mining in the future and people there will be looking for new challenges. By creating several hundred jobs through construction of a proving ground for automated driving, we are opening a new chapter in the continued development of our region.”
The CEO of CzechInvest, Karel Kučera, also highlighted the significance of the investment for the Czech Republic, “Today marks the successful conclusion of two-and-a-half years of negotiations, involving more than 200 people from various departments and institutions at national and regional level on the Czech side. The new BMW Group proving ground is a showcase for investments with high added value, which the Czech Republic now represents and which have been a goal of CzechInvest in recent years.”
In December 2016 BMW revealed that it would be concentrating its development expertise in vehicle connectivity and automated driving at a new campus in Unterschleißheim near Munich, Germany. Upon final completion, more than 2,000 staff will work at the new location in areas from software development to road testing with the aim of developing the next steps toward fully automated driving.
Agile teams working in close proximity – especially for decision-making – define the new work structures. In 2017, to coincide with the opening of the campus, 40 BMW 7 Series test vehicles for highly and fully automated driving on motorways and in urban settings were built and tested. These vehicles have been deployed at Intel (USA), Mobileye (Israel) and BMW Group (Munich) locations.