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BMW Group developing self-driving robots for supply logistics; recycled BMW i3 batteries for power

BMW is developing and testing a self-driving robot at the BMW Group’s Innovation Park in Wackersdorf. This center is the logistics hub for material management and just-in-sequence supply to BMW Group sites in ten different countries. Wackersdorf is also home to the cockpit production for several plants.

The self-driving robot maneuvers underneath roller containers with parts, picks them up and moves them through the logistics hall. Flanked by radio transmitters and equipped with a digital map, it drives independently to the destination of the goods.

Measuring its distance to three radio transmitters allows the robot to calculate its exact position and route. With the help of sensors, it identifies critical situations and can respond accordingly, sharing the route with people and other vehicles. For example, when a tugger train cross its path, a fitted sensor identifies the obstacle and stops the self-driving robot with car parts loaded weighing up to half a ton.



At a later point when the innovation is being implemented in series operation, a 3D camera system will make navigation even more accurate.

The transport robot will be able to function without the floor-mounted induction loops for navigation and will move freely within the space. The battery-powered radio transmitters mounted to the walls of the hall can be expanded to further areas in logistics flexibly without major effort and at low costs.

The development of the Smart Transport Robot is an important milestone for the BMW Group when it comes to digitization and autonomization in production logistics. This innovation project makes an important contribution to the agility of the supply chain in Logistics and Production. It enables the supply chain to adapt to changing external conditions quickly and flexibly.

—Dr. Dirk Dreher, Vice President of Foreign Supply at the BMW Group

For power, the robot vehicle uses batteries previously fitted in BMW i3 vehicles. This BMW i3 battery module will provide eight hours’ worth of energy, covering a full shift.

The BMW Group has partnered with the Fraunhofer Institute for this project. The collaboration under the label of the BMW Enterprise Lab for Flexible Logistics was established in September 2015 to explore future solutions for logistics areas.

Initial findings will be presented at LogiMAT 2016 in Stuttgart from 8-10 March 2016, at the stand of the Fraunhofer IML as well as in the forum “New transport robots – agile, strong, versatile”.

In the future, the Smart Transport Robot will be deployed in both packing areas and in assembly logistics. This step in the automation simplifies the materials procurement process for workers in packing departments and reduces the supply space in the supermarket.


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