Honda has invested in advanced bi-directional charging technology at its European R&D site in Offenbach, Germany, which is helping to balance demand and store energy more efficiently across the facility.

The new charging system incorporates renewable energy generation and is a test bed for hardware that will be available to private households in the future.

The technology installation in Germany follows the debut of the domestic Honda Power Manager Concept at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The concept previewed a fully integrated energy transfer, which takes power from the grid and can return stored energy from electric vehicle (EV) batteries – through ‘Vehicle-to-Grid’ or ‘V2G’ technology. This latest trial installation at Honda’s Offenbach site applies the same principles on a larger scale.

Through bi-directional energy transfer, electricity is drawn from the grid or is generated by photovoltaic solar panels and is used to charge EVs plugged in to the system. While an EV is plugged in, the energy held in its battery can be transferred back to help stabilise the grid at times of short or surplus supply.

Jörg Böttcher, Vice President of Honda R&D Europe, said: “With the installation of the latest bi-directional charging technology at our R&D site in Germany, we are adding the next technology to our Smart Company project, which will further enhance our research activity in the field of zero-emission society and future mobility.”

With the help of the bi-directional hardware and with the technology of The Mobility House*, Honda aims to optimise energy management at its European R&D campus, maximising the use of renewable solar power in particular. The project is testing the interaction, compatibility and power flow between specific electrical components, including the renewable energy cells and the EV batteries. The installation represents a collaboration between Honda R&D Europe, energy service provider The Mobility House and Swiss technology company EVTEC.

The investment in the bi-directional energy transfer technology further enhances the world’s most advanced public charging station for plug-in vehicles, which was launched at Honda R&D Europe in summer 2017. Its state-of-the-art 940V capability can deliver up to 150kW of energy, enabling as many as four vehicles to charge simultaneously with different types of connectors. Since its installation in June, the EV charging station has supplied power for 447 charge sessions and has saved 3.87 tonnes of CO2.

The new BMW M5 (fuel consumption combined: 10.5 l/100 km [26.9 mpg imp]; CO2 emissions combined: 241 g/km) is the most exciting and emotionally enthralling high-performance sedan from this model range ever released by BMW M. The sixth generation of this fantastically sporty machine will be launched in 2017 complete with the M xDrive system, whose all-wheel-drive technology enables the business sedan’s dynamic prowess to be experienced in even greater depth.

Quite apart from its notably enhanced performance, the new BMW M5 also boasts far greater everyday practicality and supreme poise. It therefore constitutes another evolutionary step in every respect for an exceedingly successful vehicle concept that first emerged in 1984 with the launch of the original BMW M5.

A superior drivetrain: M xDrive.

High-performance driving dynamics on the one hand paired with the everyday practicality and qualities of a business sedan on the other: this neatly sums up M’s traditional approach to model development – one which strives to harmonise individual drive components into a flawless whole.

“The core component of M xDrive is a central intelligence unit with M-specific software delivering integrated control of longitudinal and lateral dynamics. The new drivetrain technology – making its debut on the new BMW M5 – therefore combines all of the agility and precision of standard rear-wheel drive with the supreme poise and traction of the all-wheel-drive system,” explains Frank van Meel, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW M GmbH. “As a result, the new BMW M5 can be piloted with the familiar blend of sportiness and unerring accuracy on both the race track and the open road – and in various weather conditions, too.”

The M xDrive system enables a wonderfully fleet-footed rear-biased set-up by only bringing the front wheels into play when the rear wheels aren’t able to transmit any more power to the road and additional tractive force is required. Even when it is being driven in a particularly sporty manner and unleashing high levels of power, the new BMW M5 with M xDrive behaves predictably and can be controlled with ease by the driver, paving the way for an even richer experience of the business sedan’s extraordinary performance capabilities.

The driver can choose from five different configurations based on combinations of the DSC modes (DSC on, MDM, DSC off) and M xDrive modes (4WD, 4WD Sport, 2WD).

The configurations allow the drive system’s characteristics to be tailored to both the driver’s personal preferences and the nature of the journey. Purists can opt for classical rear-wheel drive by completely deactivating the all-wheel-drive system.

All in all, the new drive system engenders class-beating handling dynamics accompanied by unrestricted everyday usability. This is made possible by a central intelligence unit with M-specific software for integrated control of longitudinal and lateral dynamics. The result is optimum performance in each of the different configurations. With the advent of M xDrive, the engineers have succeeded in fusing the classical qualities of standard rear-wheel drive with the benefits of the sports-focused BMW xDrive.

This all adds up to a sense of dynamic flair that astounds even seasoned DTM drivers: “I’m a big M5 fan,” explains BMW works driver Timo Glock, for example. “I often drive long distances and I need plenty of room for my family, but I wouldn’t wish to give up the chance to explore the car’s sporting character. With M xDrive, not only can the new BMW M5 be steered with the usual precision and agility, it also offers me something I really appreciate, living in Switzerland: a noticeable boost to traction and controllability – even when driving in particular environmental conditions, such as wet weather and snow, and in both everyday driving situations and when pushing the car to its performance limits.”

Sportiness and smoothness: eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic.

In the new BMW M5 the task of relaying the engine’s power falls to an extremely slick eight-speed M Steptronic transmission with Drivelogic. Thanks to its incredibly short shift times and optimal ratio spacing, the transmission combines with the new M xDrive system and the further improved turbocharged V8 engine to form a perfectly orchestrated whole.

In addition, the transmission offers impressively smooth start-off characteristics, makes manoeuvring easier and has a wide ratio spread that helps to keep fuel consumption low. The driver has the usual choice of three shift programs, as well as the option of changing gear manually using shift paddles on the steering wheel and even performing sporty multiple downshifts. The eight-speed M Steptronic forms part of a new, finely honed overall package that turns the BMW M5 into a high-performance sedan offering genuine everyday practicality, and also resolves the apparent contradiction between sportiness and comfort.

More powerful and more efficient: the newly improved turbocharged V8 engine.

Lurking under the bonnet of the new BMW M5 is the latest version of the 4.4-litre V8 engine featuring M TwinPower Turbo technology. The further improved high- revving engine outperforms its predecessor in terms of power output and torque. The enhancements implemented by the engineers include higher injection pressure, new turbochargers, more powerful lubrication and cooling systems, plus a modified, lighter exhaust system, which generates an even clearer rendition of the unmistakable M soundtrack. Thus equipped, the V8 propels the sedan to still greater feats of dynamic performance.

However, it is the combination of engine, M xDrive and eight-speed M Steptronic, even more than the upgrading of engine’s technical specifications, that really sharpens the high-performance character of the new BMW M5; it takes the dynamic driving experience to a far higher level than the relatively moderate increase in power alone would allow.

Hardware and software with an M-specific set-up.

The principal hardware components of M xDrive are based on those of the BMW xDrive intelligent all-wheel-drive system and the Active M Differential, while the M-specific driving dynamics control software ensures innovative deployment. The drivetrain has been reinforced for greater rigidity and strength to factor in the high torque, rear-biased configuration and 2WD option. While the transfer case splits a portion of the engine’s drive between the front and rear wheels in a smoothly adjustable ratio (depending on requirements), the Active M Differential is responsible for then distributing the drive between the rear wheels. This active control element is part of the M xDrive system’s functionality and its locking effect can be varied between zero and 100 per cent, as the situation demands.

This ensures enhanced traction, agility and handling stability when the car is being driven in a very sporty manner or on roads with differing levels of grip – i.e. exactly when it is needed. Since M xDrive includes M-specific dynamics control capability, stabilising interventions from the DSC system are only required in extreme situations. And so the engine’s huge power can be converted into propulsive force with virtually zero losses. The upshot of all this is that the new BMW M5 can be guided with even greater precision and directional accuracy, responds sensitively and directly to the driver’s inputs and thus requires few steering corrections when driving at the limit.

À la carte handling dynamics: 4WD, 4WD Sport or 2WD.

Every time the engine is started, the BMW M5 defaults to 4WD mode with DSC on. Even in this basic configuration, which initially allows a certain amount of slip at the rear wheels to produce the agility for which M models are renowned, M xDrive offers tangible benefits in situations such as accelerating out of bends. The sedan completes the 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) or 200 km/h (124 mph) sprints in the sort of times that leave its predecessor trailing in its wake and will make fans of sporty driving everywhere instantly prick up their ears.

Drivers with an even greater thirst for sporty action can tap into the car’s full performance potential by engaging a second configuration: M Dynamic Mode (MDM) with the M xDrive system’s 4WD Sport mode has been configured for ultra-sporty and dynamic handling. As a result, the new BMW M5 becomes far more agile than in the standard configuration and channels even more drive to the rear wheels

At the same time, MDM permits far greater wheel slip, allowing the enthusiastic driver to send the sedan into a controlled drift and experience the remarkable agility of the new BMW M5 – a familiar trait of M models – to the full. The onset of oversteer is telegraphed in good time while the linear increase of sideslip angle makes it easily controllable, particularly as MDM aids stability at the limits of performance.

With DSC deactivated, there is a choice of three modes (4WD, 4WD Sport and 2WD). In 4WD mode, M xDrive has a neutral set-up that lends itself to optimum controllability and outstanding traction. This is of particular benefit on roads that are in mediocre or poor condition. At the same time, 4WD mode also lets the driver explore the dynamic performance capabilities of the new BMW M5 with the DSC control system deactivated.

Engaging 4WD Sport mode alters the M xDrive configuration for even greater agility and sportiness. The blend of absolute precision, delightful handling and phenomenal traction it reveals is a sure-fire route to supreme driving pleasure. 4WD Sport mode’s set-up has been fine-tuned with the assistance of highly experienced specialists and is geared towards track use in dry conditions.

With 2WD mode activated, the new BMW M5 offers the keen driver the experience of driving a high-performance sedan with rear-wheel drive only, delivering a pure form of driving enjoyment that captivates in its own unique way. The combination of incredibly agile handling, terrific feel and exceptional controllability can be attributed to the Active M Differential.

The BMW Group is using the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach to present its exciting new take on a BMW roadster. Dynamic, progressive and an irresistible purveyor of thrills, the BMW Concept Z4 boasts lithe and compact proportions, a dynamic silhouette and an emotionally appealing use of forms.

The attention-grabbing design study offers a look ahead to the series-production version of the car set to be unveiled over the course of next year.

“The BMW Concept Z4 in an all-out driving machine,” said Adrian van Hooydonk, Senior Vice President BMW Group Design. “Stripping the car back to the bare essentials allows the driver to experience all the ingredients of motoring pleasure with supreme directness. This is total freedom on four wheels.”

A statement of unbridled driving pleasure.

The sporty and progressive BMW Concept Z4 encapsulates the BMW Group’s vision of a modern roadster. “The BMW Concept Z4 expresses the new BMW design language from all perspectives and in all details. From the dynamic- looking front to the striking flanks to the clean-cut tail end: a few lines and the subtle interplay between surfaces are enough to generate a sense of power and emotion,” adds van Hooydonk.

BMW’s roadster tradition, reloaded.

The BMW Concept Z4 adopts classical roadster design cues, such as a long wheelbase, a low-slung, stretched silhouette and a compact rear end, wraps them in a fresh, confident package and enriches them with the contemporary BMW design language. A shorter bonnet and crisp overhangs ensure the driver sits closer to the centre of the car than in previous BMW roadsters. This gives the new proportions a focused, sporty and agile feel. The outline of the car follows a distinct wedge shape, which fills the BMW Concept Z4 with dynamism before it even pulls away. The large domes stretching out rearwards from the cabin elegantly integrate the function of rollover bars and provide a sporting conclusion to the low-to-the-road silhouette at the rear.

Reimagining the design language and surfaces.

The clearly sculpted shark nose at the front end spawns dramatic surface contouring that extends the full length of the flanks. The new direction taken by BMW’s design language can be seen here in just a few precise lines that form clear surfaces, while the body’s volumes are powerfully sculpted. The surfaces and forms therefore create an extremely modern and emotionally engaging impression. The large Air Breathers rearwards of the front wheels act as the source of the flanks’ elaborately modelled surfaces (they appear to be shaped by the flow of air as it exits the Air Breathers). Light and shaded surfaces develop in a rising movement towards the rear, then twist to form muscular wheel arches and athletic volumes.

All of which shines a bright stylistic spotlight on the car’s rear-wheel drive. The dramatic interplay of lines and surfaces underscores the wedge shape of the flanks and infuses them with even greater dynamism. And the low door sills, with their distinctive crease, makes the body appear closer to the road, emphasising the low-slung sensation when viewing the car from the side.

The expressive Energetic Orange frozen exterior paint finish showcases the contrasts of light and shade in the surfacing, accentuating the three- dimensionality of the exterior. And the 20-inch light-alloy wheels in a sporty bi- colour double-spoke design provide harmonious finishing touches to the styling of the flanks.

Low and progressive – the front end.

The design of the BMW Concept Z4’s front end is undeniably sporty in nature. The relationship between the low-set, broad kidney grille and the positioning of the headlights higher up sparks deliberate associations with the BMW Z8 and lends the BMW Concept Z4 a certain flamboyance. In place of the customary bars, the inside of the kidney grille features elaborately designed mesh, whose vertical orientation recalls the sporty, functional kidney design of early BMW roadsters such as the BMW 328 Mille Miglia. In a departure from the BMW norm, the Concept Z4 provides a vertical interpretation of the classical four-eyed

headlight look, with two overlapping tubes on each side. The turn signal indicators point diagonally towards the kidneys from above and underline the dynamic flair of the front end. And the clamshell bonnet with stylised gill vents curves over the wheels, creating an intriguing and virtually seamless sweep over the front end as a whole.

The front apron cuts a genuinely athletic figure with its sculptural design language. Its trio of large air intakes are a nod to the powerful engine further back and so carry the promise of a dynamic driving experience. The large carbon-fibre insert in the central air intake is straight out of the motor sport playbook and champions the use of detail to emphasise the front end’s dynamic presence.

Together, these design elements compose a fresh and memorable face for the Concept Z4 – one which pays a very modern and sporting tribute to the celebrated roadsters of BMW’s past.

Athletic and eye-catching – the rear end.

The design of the BMW Concept Z4 likewise references details and qualities from BMW’s rich roadster tradition and updates them for the years ahead. The wide and low design of the rear picks up the lines of the car’s flanks and massages them into a modern rear of beguiling clarity in terms of surfaces and styling elements. The powerfully flared wheel arches give the car broad haunches, which are emphasised by the slim, L-shaped rear lights and therefore further enhance the car’s sporting stance.

Above the rear lights, the boot lid – complete with prominent spoiler – stretches across to the burly wheel arch extensions, sending out a message of power-infused agility. Below, large air outlets in the rear apron create their own dynamic impression. The carbon-fibre diffuser adds a sporty and exclusive flourish and signs off the rear end at its lowest point to the road.

Exterior and interior in unison.

The kinship between the interior and exterior of the BMW Concept Z4 is evident in both forms and colour scheme. The design language of the interior takes the powerful, three-dimensional character of the exterior and adds another voice to the dynamic chorus. Much of the interior adopts the colour of the car body, creating a clear visual link between the interior and exterior. Only a classy chrome trim strip provides separation.

Maximum focus on the driving experience.

At the same time, the interior serves to reinforce the total focus on the driving experience too. The driver’s seat as well as the door trim panels, instrument panel and centre stack that encircle the driver are finished entirely in black, meaning that they stand out prominently from the coordinated orange shades of the exterior and the rest of the interior. Together they form a clearly defined area that wraps around the driver like a capsule, producing a very sporty sensation.

This creates a pure-of-purpose driving environment with a pronounced “cone of vision”, where the steering wheel as well as the surrounding black surfaces appear to be surging forward and, in so doing, accentuate the cabin’s powerful driver focus.

The instrument cluster and central information display form a high-quality cluster of screens that are integrated into the driver’s cockpit to flawless ergonomic effect. The two displays are now positioned at almost the same height and in close proximity to one another, which gives the impression of a single, cohesive unit. They work together to deliver the right information at the right time. The driver can choose which elements they wish to call up (via touch command) from the content available in the information display – route guidance, playlists or other infotainment features. Above the instrument cluster, the Head-Up Display presents the key driving information within the driver’s direct field of view.

Prominent surfacing.

Emerging from the driver’s side of the cabin is a sporty instrument panel of inherent lightness. The clever arrangement of surfaces and edging breaks up the considerable volumes and engenders the impression of a powerfully chiselled muscle. The clear wraparound design from the doors to the instrument panel enhances the sporty, cocooned feeling in both seats.

Pared back to the essentials.

In keeping with the focus on the essentials, all the controls are grouped into “function islands”. Nothing distracts from the driving experience. Trim elements inside the cabin are likewise minimalist in nature. Indeed, it is instead the classy materials, carefully applied polished chrome accents and swish, hexagonal laser- cut motifs in the seats that do most to create the interior’s exclusive ambience. Carbon-fibre door sill finishers and embossed asymmetrical logos in the seats and instrument panel set the seal on the interior’s sporting profile.

The new, second-generation MINI Countryman represents a more distinctive and mature proposition than its predecessor. A striking design language envelops the exterior of the urban all-rounder, while the interior is awash with creative details underscoring the premium character of the new MINI Countryman (combined fuel consumption: 7.0 – 2.1 l/100 km; combined CO2 emissions: 159 – 49 g/km). The new car is clearly recognisable as a member of the MINI family, yet has a character very much its own. “We see the new MINI Countryman as the adventurer of the family, always up for new experiences – either in the city or off the beaten track,” explains Christopher Weil, Head of Exterior Design at MINI.

The silhouette – powerful and rugged

Ever since it was launched in 2010 the MINI Countryman has been winning over drivers with its distinctive design. The second generation of the Sports Activity Vehicle is equally as compact as its successful forebear and makes a convincing statement through its authentic design. “It was clear to us that the new MINI Countryman needed to go a step further aesthetically and yet still remain a MINI,” says Oliver Sieghart, Head of Interior Design at MINI.

“In terms of its design, the Countryman is the most rugged and upright model in the MINI family.” Visual anchor points shared elsewhere in the brand family include the floating “helmet roof”, the chrome strip on the shoulderline and the clear silhouette, which incorporates classical MINI design features. And the new MINI Countryman extends the theme, with headlamps fully encircled by daytime driving light rings for the first time. Indeed, the evenly illuminated rings are a signature element, ensuring the striking contours of the headlights are visible during both the day and night.

The design language of the new MINI Countryman is now more pared-back and modern. The car has sharper lines and catches the eye with its taut surfaces and details. For example, metal edging has been added to the distinctive black band that wraps around the car and takes in the wheel arches. This edging is purposefully squarer in execution, rather than rounded. The flanks, with their precise surfaces, give the car its contours and create tautness. The edging around the wheel arches catches the light and sharpens the focus on all four wheels. The lights, the front grille and the hallmark side scuttles are also more prominent in appearance.

Meanwhile, the optional ALL4 package gives the Countryman’s design a more muscular off-road character. With its roof rails, additional black bumper accents and silver-coloured underfloor protection, the new car cuts an even brawnier figure.

The interior – pure and practical

Alongside the classical strengths of an SAV (think raised seating position, all-wheel drive and a spacious interior), the new MINI Countryman also offers customers a wealth of details and an authentic design. Tauter surfaces enable greater clarity and inject sharper graphic appeal into the design of the interior. Horizontal segments lend the cockpit area a visually broader and more modern look. The use of high- quality materials and scope for customisation – e.g. through the addition of chrome accents or backlit trim strips – bring an exclusive character to the new MINI Countryman.

And the variety of details available, from subtle to extravagant, is undeniably large. “The MINI brand has a long tradition, which we are keen to express in a modern interpretation rather than just reference,” says Sieghart. That means seats with diagonal stitching, whose contemporary interpretation and colour scheme lift the classical seat cover profile to a new level thanks to a dash of creativity and a fine sense for the aesthetic. A standout feature is the interior option MINI YOURS – British Oak illuminated, where translucent sections in the trim strips help to generate vivid patterns. This option provides different expressions for daytime and night modes and infuses the interior with a special aesthetic appeal.

The plug-in hybrid model – electrifyingly new, electric in yellow

The new MINI Countryman sees the MINI brand add a plug-in hybrid model to its line-up for the first time. This variant can be identified from the outside by numerous accents in yellow, such as the MINI E logo and the charging flap next to the side scuttle. The interior also contains elements which single this out as the plug-in hybrid model in the range, including accents on the steering wheel and instrument cluster, instruments adapted to electric driving and an extended user interface, which clearly highlights the car’s plug-in hybrid functions. Plus, the start/stop button in the centre console is no longer red – as in all other MINIs – but yellow instead.

The seventh generation of the BMW 5 Series will also be built at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing in Lower Bavaria. Production of the new BMW 5 Series Sedan will ramp up before the end of the year, ready for market launch in early 2017. In preparation for the new model, there has been extensive refurbishment and construction in all technologies at the Dingolfing plant in recent months. Several hundred million euros have been invested in measures including a new body shop to the west of the plant and restructuring of drivetrain unit installation at the vehicle assembly facility.

“Dingolfing will remain our competence centre for production of upper-class BMW series,” according to Oliver Zipse, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, responsible for Production. In addition to manufacturing all BMW 7 Series and BMW 6 Series models, the site will continue to produce all variants of the new BMW 5 Series and also serve as the lead plant for the BMW 5 Series’ international production network. For the first time, additional units of the new BMW 5 Series Sedan will also be built by Austrian contract manufacturer Magna Steyr AG & Co KG at their plant in Graz.

“The high level of flexibility within our global production network and reliable cooperation with our partner, Magna Steyr, will enable us to respond swiftly to the strong customer demand we anticipate for the world’s most successful business limousine,” adds Zipse.

The BMW 5 Series has been the market leader in the premium upper-class segment for many years, with more than 347,000 units sold in 2015.

Integration of new BMW 3 Series and 4 Series models means that production volumes at the BMW Group plant in Dingolfing have risen significantly. As a result, the site now produces around 350,000 vehicles per year. “The decision to build 3 Series and 4 Series variants here proves that we are competitive and makes us less dependent on the lifecycle of our large model series,” explains Dingolfing Plant Manager Josef Kerscher. However, as a consequence of this successful growth, the plant can no longer accommodate the expected volumes alone. Nevertheless, the bulk of the BMW 5 Series models will still be produced in Dingolfing.

“We are delighted to have a highly-professional partner like Magna Steyr produce this successful model for us. They will certainly benefit from our years of experience building the BMW 5 Series: Our staff here in Dingolfing will work very closely with the plant in Graz,” adds Kerscher.

The BMW 5 Series Sedan is the second BMW model to be produced by the Austrian contract manufacturer; the first was the BMW X3, which was manufactured by Magna Steyr between 2003 and 2010. Magna Steyr currently also builds the MINI Countryman and the MINI Paceman for the BMW Group.

Production of the new BMW 5 Series Sedan will get underway at the end of the year at the main plant in Dingolfing and at Magna Steyr in Graz in early 2017.

Hyundai Motor’s ix35 Fuel Cell is the star of the world’s first fuel cell powered zero-emission car sharing service BeeZero, to be launched in Munich, Germany this summer. BeeZero, run by a newly founded subsidiary of The Linde Group, will feature 50 Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell electric vehicles for public use.

“The new BeeZero car sharing offer is pioneering sustainable mobility,” says Thomas A. Schmid, Chief Operating Officer at Hyundai Motor Europe. “Featuring the Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell, BeeZero will not only be the first car sharing service using hydrogen-powered zero-emission cars, but will also offer comfortable and reliable transportation for the public’s everyday needs.”

“We expect to gain valuable information from day-to-day fleet operations which we will use to further develop our hydrogen technologies and to help expand the hydrogen infrastructure,” said Dr Christian Bruch, member of the Executive Board of Linde AG. “BeeZero synergises two mobility trends that are gaining a lot of ground at the moment -car sharing and zero emissions -and will bring the benefits of fuel cell technology to a wider group of potential users.”

600 kilometres on a single tank

The BeeZero car sharing service will be run on a zone-based model. The fleet of fifty ix35 Fuel Cell cars will be available in Munich’s city centre and also in the areas of Schwabing, Haidhausen, Au and Glockenbachviertel. As with conventional car sharing services, the cars can be easily booked online or via a smartphone app.

The Hyundai ix35 Fuel Cell can travel about 600 kilometres on a single tank, making it ideal for longer journeys too, to the Bavarian lakes or the mountains for example, and not just for short trips in the city. Hydrogen fuel for BeeZero is sourced from sustainable production processes, making it completely carbon neutral.

Automated driving takes a step forward in Germany on Wednesday, with the commencement of the PEGASUS research project, which aims to set out more cost-effective and safer test methods for automated driving including motorway tests at speeds of 130 km/h. The project will run for 40 months, with government funding of €16.3m, and brings together 14 industry partners, most of them from Germany’s innovative SME landscape, two scientific research institutes and a technical inspection company.

“Automated driving is a crucial driver for innovation and value creation, playing a significant role in automobile location Germany,” said State Secretary for Economics and Energy Matthias Machnig. “We need these procedures and standards in testing in order to maintain our position at the forefront of the automobile, supplier and service-provider industries.”

Germany’s commitment to automated driving and e-mobility has long been an integral part of the country’s renowned car industry’s long-term strategy, with the stated aim of having 1m e-cars on the road by 2020.

“Germany continues to lead the way in research and innovation, using small, flexible companies grouped together in order to find efficient, cost-effective and potential global standard solutions,” said Stefan Di Bitonto, Senior Manager Transportation Technologies at Germany Trade & Invest. “Such companies benefit from projects such as these and become global leaders in tiny but critical niches with a variety of global applications, making them perfect investment targets.”

A model car that reacts independently to an obstacle that suddenly appears and brakes accordingly: approximately 50 students from all over Germany are currently working on this scenario in the Audi Autonomous Driving Cup. They will present the capabilities of the model cars they have programmed themselves in the final of the competition in the Audi museum mobile at the end of March. The Audi Autonomous Driving Cup is primarily aimed at students of informatics, computers science, electrical/electronic engineering and mechanical engineering. Ten teams from universities all over Germany have qualified for the competition, which Audi is holding for the first time this year.

“Rapidly advancing digitalisation and connectivity in the automotive industry are bringing a lot of exciting challenges,” said Audi’s Board of Management Member for Human Resources Prof. Thomas Sigi. “That’s why we are searching worldwide for the best experts. The Audi Autonomous Driving Cup is a good opportunity for us to personally get to know young people with promising talent who would like to shape the innovations of tomorrow with us.”

The students received the model cars from Audi last autumn. The Audi Q5 models on a scale of 1:8 are powered by an electric motor and have a top speed of 40 km/h. They are all equipped with a sophisticated camera as well as various infrared and ultrasonic sensors, which Audi uses in a similar form also in series-produced vehicles. The participants were also provided with uniform basic software. Their task in the past six months has been to develop their own software architecture to evaluate the data from the camera and sensors, interpret the situation and control the car accordingly.

In the final of the competition in the Audi museum mobile in Ingolstadt, the students will now demonstrate the effectiveness of their software on an area of approximately 300 square metres. In direct competition with the other teams, their cars have to show how well they react to oncoming traffic and traffic at crossroads, difficult parking situations and obstacles that appear suddenly. The goal is to get through the course as fast as possible and without any mistakes. Accidents, lost time or inaccurately executed driving maneuvers lead to point deductions. The evaluations also take account of a scientific discourse in which the students describe to the jury how they programmed their vehicles, as well as a “freestyle” driving demonstration. On the last day of the competition, the participants have the opportunity to present their own creative solutions or driving manoeuvres. The team with the most points at the end wins prize money of 10,000 euros, with 5,000 euros for the second-placed team and 1,000 euros for the third.

Teams from 10 German universities have qualified for the first Audi Autonomous Driving Cup: Offenburg University, the Free University of Berlin, the University of Kassel, the University of Leipzig, the Technical University of Ingolstadt, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Leibniz University in Hanover, the Technical University of Munich, the Karlsruhe Informatics Research Center and the University of Freiburg. The participants’ chances of future employment at the premium automobile manufacturer are good. This year alone, Audi intends to recruit more than 6,000 employees worldwide. About 4,000 of these new entrants will be employed at the German sites in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, primarily in the fields of lightweight construction, connectivity and electric mobility. In addition to internships and help with dissertations for students, Audi offers various entry programs for graduates and applicants with work experience. In the development program for academics, for example, participants develop valuable expertise in two areas during a four-year period and gain experience with interfaces to related specialist departments. In addition, Audi cooperates with 31 partner universities worldwide and supports highly qualified and talented young people: at present, more than 140 doctoral students are working on their theses in research projects financed by Audi.

The BMW Group is expanding the footprint of its innovative BMW i mobility services with an investment in the parking service provider Parkmobile International Holding. With around 10 million customers in more than 600 international cities, Parkmobile is the world’s leading provider of on-demand mobile payment solutions for public on-street parking. This partnership will significantly expand the footprint of the BMW i premium parking service ParkNow, whose focus is on offering its customers a user-friendly way of searching for and reserving city parking spaces, complete with cashless payment options. U.S. users will in future be able to use the ParkNow website or smartphone app to access approximately 2.7 million garage parking spaces and on-street parking spaces across hundreds of cities.
This latest move means that ParkNow is now the first network to offer its customers user-friendly parking solutions for both garage and on-street parking. “With this new investment we are taking the next step on the way to making ParkNow the world’s leading premium parking service,” says Joachim Hauser, Vice President Business Development BMW Mobility Services. The expansion of the ParkNow network is a further example of how BMW i is continuously growing and strengthening its state-of-the-art mobility services, he adds. Such services also include the premium car-sharing service DriveNow, which is currently up and running in a total of seven European cities, as well as in San Francisco. ParkNow likewise plans to start operations in European markets in the near future.
Parking space bookable by app or computer, cashless payment, parking time extendable without returning to the vehicle

The premium parking service ParkNow from BMW i, which can be used with any make of vehicle, spares drivers the often time-consuming task – particularly in large cities – of searching for a vacant parking space. This in turn helps to reduce fuel consumption and mitigates congestion and Co2 emissions. Customers who plan to park their vehicle in a parking garage near their destination can book a parking space before they set off, either by computer or by smartphone. The website or app shows the search results for all participating garages, filtered by availability, distance and price. ParkNow can also be used to conveniently search for and reserve a parking space for an EV, complete with charging point. As an alternative, in the near future it will also be possible to book parking en route using the navigation system. ParkNow already allows users to load the location details of their selected car park straight into the navigation system, while an electronic ticket grants them access to their reserved space when they arrive at their destination.

ParkNow is a convenient and customer-friendly solution for on-street parking as well. The driver no longer needs to look for change to feed a ticket machine or parking meter but instead can simply enter the number of the selected parking zone in the app or navigation system to start the parking session – even before getting out of the car. Payment takes place automatically via ParkNow. As an added convenience feature, before the selected parking time expires customers are informed by a signal on their mobile phone. If they wish, they can then extend their parking time without returning to the vehicle – provided the allotted parking time has not yet been exceeded. This additional time is again charged automatically.

BMW Group invests in Parkmobile as a strong partner

The investment in Parkmobile will allow the BMW Group to further expand the footprint of its “one-stop” ParkNow service, an on-demand, flexible solution that allows users to search for and reserve garage or on-street parking, with subsequent cashless payments. The joint venture of Parkmobile USA LLC and SP Plus Corporation will further extend the network’s coverage. SP Plus operates more than 4,200 parking garages with more than 2.1 million spaces in hundreds of North American cities. The joint venture Parkmobile USA LLC will combine ParkNow’s expertise in the brokerage of covered parking space with Parkmobile’s focus on on-demand mobile payments and SP Plus’ focus on pre-paid parking services. It will be possible to tailor this combined service precisely to the needs of all target groups. For example, customers visiting event venues, restaurants, universities or airlines can in each case be offered an appropriately tailored premium ParkNow service for booking parking. The parking search is carried out online, avoiding the need for time-wasting street searches, and payment is automatic and cashless.

The further expansion of ParkNow’s extensive footprint in North America is in progress. Details on additional partnerships will be announced in the near future.