New 5 Series put through rigorous 4-month testing by BMW
By ANNA KOCHAN | Automotive News Europe
DINGOLFING, Germany - The level of on-board electronics on BMW's new 5 Series is particularly high.
Because of the risks associated with new electronics systems as well as the large number of model variations and a steep ramp-up, BMW's quality department instituted a new large-scale vehicle testing program.
Instead of testing five to 10 vehicles on the road, as was done in the past, BMW tested 500 units of the new 5 Series.
"On March 1, 2003, we stepped up daily production to 100 units," says Xaver Franz, director of quality management. "By the end of a week we had 500 cars, and we gave them to BMW personnel to test drive, including both management and shop floor employees. We asked them to imagine themselves as a BMW customer and to report back anything that bothered them. As a result, we achieved ramp-up to 800 units per day in two months."
One improvement made as a result of the tests is the trunk lid opening. It had a tendency to open too fast and hit the driver on the forehead. An air valve was fitted to the mechanism.
Franz says such feedback related to every aspect of the car. An information system was set up to handle the data.
The tests lasted from March 10 to July 5. Franz says the testing procedure will be repeated for new models but maybe not with such a large number of vehicles.
"Five hundred is a lot of vehicles and is difficult to manage," Franz says. "But in this special case it was necessary because of the large number of model variations and the really steep ramp-up. Maybe we'll use just 100 in the future."
The level of on-board electronics in the new 5 series caused BMW concern.
"What software development does not have bugs?" Franz says. "The big challenge is to create systems and protection measures that find all the bugs and, of course, eliminate them." For BMW, this has meant introducing backup systems for transmitting vital signals. For example, in the active front steering system, two pathways, with separate processors and software, have been set up so that the steering angle calculation can be relied on without fail. In the most critical areas, three pathways are used.
BMW created two teams to take responsibility for the quality of the on-board electronics: one for components and one for complete systems.
Ensuring that the individual functions connect to create an integrated system is a major focus of attention, says Franz, since no industry standards for electronics interfaces exist.
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