Hyundai Motor Company announced Sunday that it successfully demonstrated its self-driving technology on Friday with five of its futuristic vehicles completing a self-driven 190 kilometers journey from Seoul to Pyeongchang. Three were the NEXO, Hyundai’s next generation fuel cell electric vehicles, and the other two were the Genesis G80 autonomous vehicles. They started at a rest area on Gyeongbu Expressway in Seoul and took the Yeongdong Expressway until finally arriving in the Daegwallyeong toll gate, Gangwon Province.
Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and autonomous driving technology are both considered to be the key to the future of the auto industry. Fuel cell electric cars are called the “ultimate eco-friendly vehicles” as they ride with hydrogen as fuel, which is infinite in its amount and does not emit any environmental pollutants, and can purify fine dust. Countries around the world are also racing to develop self-driving technology, but as of now, Hyundai and Japan’s Toyota are effectively the only car manufacturers developing both fields. And Hyundai has become the first automaker in the world to showcase autonomous driving technology on a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.
The vehicles used for the test drive were equipped with level four automation (High Automation), as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) international standards. At this level, the vehicle can adjust speed and direction on its own without the driver’s control or intervention “under defined conditions and circumstances.” Level five (Full Automation) is where the vehicle can become perfectly driverless with no need for human interruption under any circumstances.
There have been test drives conducted at “limited speeds” in selected areas on the highway. But this is the first time that self-driving vehicles have completed a long-distance journey of over 100 kilometers at the maximum speeds allowed by law (between 100 and 110 kilometers per hour). “We conducted a significant number of highway test drives amounting to hundreds of thousands of kilometers traveled, which enabled them to accumulate a vast amount of data that helped enhance the performance of our self-driving vehicles,” said Hyundai.
President Moon Jae-in also tested the passenger’s seat of the NEXO on Friday, and said that he could see for himself “the world-class performance of Korea’s hydrogen fuel cell cars and fully automated driving.”
Hyundai’s next-generation fuel cell electric vehicles are scheduled to be released next month. The NEXO can drive more than 600 kilometers on a single charge, which takes only around five minutes. Hyundai also revealed its plan to commercialize the technology for fully autonomous driving by 2030 on the same day. If realized, Korea’s No. 1 carmaker’s dream will make it possible that self-driving cars fill the roads all over the country in just 12 years.