Hyundai holds driverless car race to promote cutting edge technology

INJE, South Korea-- Hyundai Motor Co. hosted the final of its latest autonomous car race on Friday as it strives to build up tools to promote growth for the next-generation technology that could become part of all vehicles in the future.

The country's biggest carmaker by sales has held the Autonomous Vehicle Competition, a driverless car race, since 2010 by providing technological advice on self-driving cars to university students so they can apply this expertise and develop their own vehicles.

It is part of Hyundai's greater effort to become a leading player in the cutting-edge vehicle sector going forward. Globally, driverless cars are forecast to hit the road within the next several years and carmakers are jumping in to compete in this new market that promises the potential for growth.

Reflecting such prospects, Roborace, a firm hoping to kick-start the future of driverless racing, debuted its driverless "Robocar" for the first time at the Paris ePrix on May 20 (local time). The electric, 320km/h self-driving car completed one lap on the French circuit.

"Hyundai aims to produce low-priced autonomous vehicles based on a standardized platform," Lee Jin-woo, head of Hyundai Motor's Intelligent Safety Technology Center, told reporters. Lee previously led autonomous driving technology development at General Motors Co.

This year, 11 university teams participated in the driverless car race to compete with each other on a 5.2-kilometer track in the areas of speed, braking, changing speeds, avoiding obstacles and steering, the company said.

In January last year, Hyundai provided its Avante compact to dozens of university teams that wanted to take part in this year's race. It also gave financial support worth 30 million (US$27,000) per team. Among them were the teams shortlisted for the final race at the tracks, it said.

The autonomous car race was held Thursday and Friday at the Inje Speedium Circuit, 165 km east of Seoul.

Besides the Avante and monetary support, Hyundai provided contestants with LiDAR, a global positioning system (GPS) and four cameras. LiDAR -- pronounced LIE-dar -- is shorthand for light detection and ranging and a key ingredient in the overall sensing package required to make autonomous cars a reality.

The team composed of engineering students from Keimyung University beat 10 other teams, including rivals from Seoul National University and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST). Their vehicle recorded the fastest lap time of 4 minutes and 27 seconds.

"We have focused on making our LiDAR system precisely detect obstacles ahead of the car. It helped our autonomous car to move at high speeds in a stable manner," Lee In-kyu, who led the nine-member Keimyung University team, told Yonhap News Agency.

Lee, 27, who studied mechanical engineering at the Daegu-based university, said he wants to contribute to the commercialization of autonomous vehicles for the South Korean carmaker.

The maker of the Sonata sedan and Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle offered rewards worth a total of 200 million won for the contestants. The winners took 50 million won in prize money and will be given the chance to visit Hyundai's output facility in the United States.

Related to future trends, the carmaker's auto parts-making affiliate Hyundai Mobis Co. aims to develop technologies for highway driving-capable self-driving cars by 2020, with an aim to commercialize them two years later.

The company plans to develop the autonomous driving technologies mainly to help Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors Corp. so they can add next-generation smart cars to their lineups.

The Highway Driving Assist (HDA) 3 system sought by Hyundai Mobis by 2020 will allow lane changes and other autonomous driving functions to work without intervention by the driver.

In the HDA2 technology already developed by the parts maker, the driver can initiate a lane change on the highway, or exit or join the speedway if he sets the indicator. The company aims to commercialize the HDA2 technology in 2019.

HDA1 was intended to keep a vehicle in its lane effectively and help protect the driver from the often serious consequences resulting from a lack of attention, distraction or a few seconds of micro-sleep.

All the HDA systems, however, will still have a major shortcoming, since they are designed to be operated in non-urban, virtually intersection-free scenarios.

Hyundai Mobis expects the HDA4 technologies to be available after 2025 for operation in urban areas punctuated with intersections and even tight curves.

Hyundai Motor plans to apply the autonomous driving functions initially to its high-end sedans and then other vehicles from 2020 onward.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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