Three of Hyundai Motor Company’s next-generation NEXO fuel-cell-electric vehicles (earlier post) have completed a self-driven 118-mile (190 km) journey from Seoul to Pyeongchang. This is the first time that level 4 autonomous driving has been achieved with fuel-cell-electric vehicles.
Five Hyundai vehicles completed the journey. Three vehicles are based on Hyundai’s next-generation fuel cell electric SUV NEXO, scheduled to be released in Korea next month, and the other two are Genesis G80 autonomous vehicles. All vehicles are equipped with level 4 self-driving technology, as defined by the SAE international standards, and 5G network technology.
Until now, autonomous driving has been demonstrated only on selected sections of Korean domestic roads and at a limited speed. The Hyundai test marks the first time autonomous vehicles have operated on public highways at 110 km/h (68 mph), the maximum speed allowed by law on Korean highways.
The demonstration took place in Seoul on 2 Feb, with the ‘CRUISE’ and ‘SET’ buttons being pressed on the autonomous-driving steering wheel of each vehicle, at which point the cars immediately switched to self-driving mode and began the 118-mile journey to Pyeongchang.
Entering the highway, the vehicles moved in response to the natural flow of traffic, executed lane changes, overtaking maneuvers and navigated toll gates using Hi-pass, South-Korea’s wireless expressway payment system.
Building on the successful demonstration of Hyundai’s vehicles which drove autonomously in Las Vegas during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) early last year, the cars feature a number of advanced technologies that enable them to recognize surrounding vehicles more accurately and make better judgements at junctions and navigate through toll gates by accurately calculating the toll gate’s width and position. The vehicles are also able to pinpoint their position on a map by using external sensors fitted for situations when the GPS signal was interrupted, such as going through underground tunnels.
The exterior and interior of self-driving vehicles used for this demonstration look similar to Hyundai’s other mass-produced models but are installed with additional cameras and LIDARs. Adding a small number of sensors to mass produced vehicles has enabled the realization of fully autonomous driving technology, bringing Hyundai closer to the commercialization of self-driving technology.
Hyundai has conducted a significant number of highway test drives amounting to hundreds of thousands of miles travelled, which has enabled the accumulation of data to enhance the performance of its self-driving vehicles.
During autonomous driving, a high volume of data is processed by the vehicles on board systems, necessitating large power consumption. A fuel cell electric vehicle is able to produce electricity to meet this power consumption, as well as powering the vehicles drive systems. Hyundai says that the fuel cell vehicle is optimal for this type of test.
NEXO has a target range of 500 miles (NEDC) on a single charge of hydrogen and takes only five minutes to refuel. NEXO features world-class system efficiency of 60%, durability equivalent to internal combustion engine-driven vehicles and a load space of 839 liters.
Connectivity Enhanced Infotainment System. Utilizing the 5G network of KT Corp., a Korean mobile service provider, the test vehicles deliver five new advanced information technologies, all accessed through a user interface (UI) that provides an intuitive user experience.
Passengers in the rear seats can use “Home Connect,” a car-to-home technology which enables the user to access and control “Internet of Things” (IoT) devices installed in their smart home. They can view home camera images in real-time, control the lighting, remote door lock, control television, and even manage home energy systems.
“Assistant Chat” is a technology that allows users to ask questions to a Chat Bot with simple voice commands and receive answers in the form of text or images.
“Wellness Care” can monitor health information of passengers seated in the rear of the vehicle, such as their stress level, heart rate, and mood state. They can also access relaxing therapeutic services and connect with a health consultant through a real-time video call.
In addition, the vehicle also provides “Noise-Away” cabin noise reduction technology and “Mood Care” which provides rear door mood lighting when the music player or Wellness Care is active.
Lastly, users can receive real-time traffic information notifications, supported by multiple languages, including Korean, English and Chinese.
Level 4 commercialization. Hyundai Motor Group is preparing for the commercialization of the SAE standard Level 4 compliant autonomous-driving system in smart cities by 2021. To this end, the company announced plans at CES 2018 last month to jointly develop self-driving technology with Aurora Innovation; a US-based autonomous driving start-up. (Earlier post.) Hyundai plans to commercialize the technology for fully autonomous driving by 2030.
Furthermore, since August last year, Hyundai has been researching and building its V2X infrastructure. As a founding member of the American Center for Mobility, a US research institute for future mobility, Hyundai Motor Group last October invested $5 million in the ACM-led construction of state-of-the-art testing facilities.