BMW's Latest Test Pilots? Robots With a Need for (Repetitive) Speed

BMW's Latest Test Pilots? Robots With a Need for (Repetitive) Speed

In a world where the phrase "self-driving" conjures images of Silicon Valley start-ups and their tech-laden prototypes dodging pedestrians, BMW has decided to take a different route – quite literally. Welcome to the future of automotive testing, or as BMW likes to call it: "Driverless Development." It's like having a tireless, uncomplaining test driver, except it's a car driving itself. No coffee breaks needed.

This isn't your usual Sunday drive. At BMW's new testing playground in Sokolov, which spans a massive 600 hectares, prototype vehicles like the BMW i7 are living their best autonomous lives. They're not just cruising; they're performing complex maneuvers, from the mundane to the downright thrilling – think full-throttle drifts sans driver. Yes, you read that right. It's like "Fast and Furious," but the cars are the stars, and Vin Diesel is nowhere in sight.

Remember when drifting autonomously was a wild concept at a tech show in Las Vegas almost a decade ago? Well, BMW hasn't just remembered it; they've turned it into a day job for their self-driving prototypes. These cars are putting in the miles, looping the same tests with robotic precision, which – let's face it – is kind of a snooze fest for us humans but a dream for engineering data analytics.

Here's the kicker: these cars do the exact same thing every single time. Every drift, every turn is a carbon copy of the last, making it crystal clear whether that squeak is just an aging suspension or something more sinister. It's like having a test driver who never has an off day, never gets tired, and never, ever complains about the playlist.

And while these autonomous BMWs are busy doing their repetitive dance, the real-life engineers – you know, the ones made of flesh and bones – get to focus on the stuff that still requires a human touch. It's a win-win, really. The robots handle the monotonous stuff, and the humans tackle the challenges that are, well, more challenging.

The best part? This futuristic testing doesn't require a car bristling with more gadgets than a spaceship. Most of the tech for autonomous driving is already in there, though BMW does sneak in a robot in the driver's footwell. Its job? To slam the brakes if things go south. Safety first, after all.

So there you have it. BMW's test drivers of today aren't just skilled and experienced – they're also, quite possibly, not human. It's a brave new world in automotive testing, and BMW is leading the charge, one autonomous drift at a time. Vin Diesel, eat your heart out.