BMW opens its largest-ever test center in Czechia

The facility, based in Karlovy Vary, will develop future BMW products and focus on automation and self-driving cars.


Written by ČTK Published on 27.07.2023 11:00:00 (updated on 27.07.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Luxury vehicle manufacturer BMW opened yesterday its state-of-the-art test center – the largest in Europe – in Sokolov, Karlovy Vary. The Future Mobility Development Center (FMDC), which spans 600 hectares, cost over CZK 7 billion to build.

The sprawling test facility comprises six tracks with a combined length of 25 kilometers, featuring a notable 80-meter elevation. It also has sections specifically designed for rural and urban traffic simulations. BMW says that the facility will be dedicated to testing cutting-edge car technologies. 

Autonomous driving

The primary focus of the FMDC is to advance autonomous driving capabilities, which are cars that can drive on their own with optimal precision, allowing drivers to confidently rely on the technology in traffic scenarios. 

One of the main goals of this technology is to curb accidents, as many of them result from driver inattention. By integrating sophisticated autonomous systems, BMW believes it can substantially reduce the number of accidents and significantly improve road safety. 

Although the center is not yet in its final form, FMDC has already started test rides. The extensive area boasts an array of transport structures, including narrow and wide roads, bridges, and complex intersections with traffic lights. To simulate real-life scenarios, the center uses mannequins representing people, children, cyclists, and animals, which enable the thorough evaluation of car safety systems, aiding in quick responses to dangers and preventing potential collisions.

Photo via BMW Group
Photo of the test and development polygon via BMW Group

BMW says that safety is a top priority at the FMDC, and the campus operates under strict security measures. During the opening ceremony, mobile phone cameras of all guests were covered to ensure privacy, and media access to the premises was restricted. Such precautions align with the test center's purpose and commitment to testing and refining autonomous technologies in a secure environment.

Good for the area and future land use

The FMDC's grand opening was celebrated as a milestone for the Karlovy Vary region, according to Governor Petr Kulhánek. The center is anticipated to attract talent to the region and possibly expand the campus further, driving economic growth and technological advancement.

In addition to BMW's involvement, Sokolovská uhelná, the company owning the land on which the complex is built, has expressed interest in collaborating with BMW to develop different activities within the site. There are also plans to utilize the remaining landfill sites for potential industrial zone development on the western edge, offering up to 60 hectares of space.

In the business realm, BMW has been experiencing success, with a 4.7-percent increase in global car sales during the first half of the year, totaling about 1.2 million cars. This surge in sales follows a slight decline of 5 percent in sales the previous year. Moreover, the company's gross profit skyrocketed by almost half in 2022 to a record-breaking EUR 23.5 billion (around CZK 564 billion).

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