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Hyundai invests $5 million in U.S. R&D center

Automaker injected funds into autonomous car test driving facility
Oct 26,2017
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Left: Andy Freels, president of Hyundai Technical America Center, left, and John Maddox, president and CEO of the American Center for Mobility shake hands on Tuesday at the construction site of the future car technology research center. Right: A computer-generated image of the center. [HYUNDAI MOTOR]
Hyundai Motor Group has invested $5 million in a U.S.-based research and development center in its effort to gain an upper hand in the increasingly competitive global future car technology market.

Korea’s No. 1 and the world’s fifth-largest carmaker said Wednesday that it has invested $5 million in the American Center for Mobility, which is building a future car technology research and test center in Willow Run in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. The American Center for Mobility is a non-profit facility for vehicle testing, education and development for future mobility and Hyundai Motor is registered as a founder-level sponsor.

The center, which is poised to complete construction in 2019, has test drive facilities for autonomous driving as well as a large-scale research and development center.

It is expected to be 2 million square meters (494 acres) in size, providing space for test drives under diverse conditions and on different landscapes. The routes include highways, unpaved alleyways and busy streets lined with shops and houses, as well as a tunnel.

According to Hyundai Motor, the test center will be equipped with wireless networks, GPS and location-tracking devices to test connected car technology as well.

“Hyundai Motor Group’s latest investment is a strategic decision to take a lead in the autonomous and connected car market,” said a spokesperson for the company.

“To strengthen future car technology capacity, we will continue to develop core technology in the U.S. which is considered a mecca for innovative technology,” the spokesman added.

In addition to using the facility, Hyundai Motor is looking forward to forming potential partnerships with Toyota, Ford and AT&T among others which have confirmed their strategic collaboration with the American Center for Mobility. Toyota and Ford also contributed $5 million to the center.

With Hyundai’s latest contribution the facility has raised $101 million, according to the center.

The carmaker is also banking on the test facility’s strategic location in Michigan, where the state actively supports the testing of driverless cars as shown in the operation of Mcity, a simulated urban and suburban driving course where carmakers and IT companies can test their future car technology.

Hyundai Motor’s has been aggressively working to take the lead in the autonomous car industry, especially under the group’s vice chairman Chung Eui-sun’s leadership.

Chung is known to actively participate in forums in and out of Korea related to the self-driving car industry and regulations to get a bigger picture of the market.

He also met with Mobileye CEO Amnon Shashua at the company headquarters in southern Seoul last week to discuss possible collaborations on future vehicles.

The automotive company is also going all-out to expand its global sales figures.

On the same day, Hyundai Motor announced it has established a task force dedicated to the Southeast Asian market, acknowledging the regions’ growing presence in the automotive market.

The team of 10 will be headed by Jeong Bang-sun, the director of Hyundai Motor’s Asia Pacific, Africa and Middle East section and will work to secure dealerships in Southeast Asian countries and go over the necessary regulations needed for doing business there.

Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia still account for a small share of the global auto market, but they have shown continuous growth, recording annual average growth of 4 to 5 percent.

With 98 percent of the local automotive industry being dominated by Japanese brands, global carmakers including Hyundai Motor have shown interest in investing in the growing market.


BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]