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Humans win race with autonomous car

Despite strong start, self-driving vehicle struggled to maneuver
Nov 18,2017
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An autonomous vehicle is unable to get past an obstacle course at a racing event during the Pangyo Autonomous Motor Show on Friday in Pangyo, Gyeonggi. The motor show, which is in its first year, is the latest attempt by the government of Gyeonggi to make the province a leader in the growing self-driving vehicle industry. [YONHAP]
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Zero Shuttle, an unmanned shuttle bus set to go on a trial run starting next month, is displayed at the Pangyo Autonomous Motor Show on Friday in Pangyo, Gyeonggi. The bus will run on a 5.5-kilometer (3.4-mile) route in Pangyo. [GYEONGGI PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT]
In an attempt to provide a glimpse into how far autonomous vehicle technologies in Korea have come, the government of Gyeonggi and Seoul National University are hosting the “Pangyo Autonomous Motor Show” from Thursday to today in the city of Pangyo, Gyeonggi, home of the Techno Valley.

“The purpose of this motor show is to show the Korean public that it won’t take long until autonomous vehicles hit the local roads,” said Nam Kyung-pil, the governor of Gyeonggi, during the motor show on Friday. “It is also to show the determination of the province of Gyeonggi to become a center for the autonomous vehicle industry.”

As part of the show on Friday, an autonomous car developed by a research team from a local university went head-to-head against human drivers. The event made it apparent that self-driving vehicles have a way to go until they can be fully commercialized.

Self-driving cars faced off against 10 human drivers - ranging from beginners to more seasoned drivers and even professional racers and the governor of Gyeonggi himself - to complete a number of tasks.

The tasks represented certain situations that any driver may face on the road such as emergency stops, dodging obstacles and driving on narrow roads.

The autonomous vehicle used at the event was a modified model of “Danigo,” an electric ultra-compact vehicle developed by local company Daechang Motors that is set to be commercialized next year, topped with various gadgets such as sensors and radars developed by a team of researchers from Chungbuk National University. The vehicle is the winner of the 2017 Autonomous Vehicle Contest that took place last month.

The excitement among the crowd, however, quickly faded.

During the first race with the governor, the vehicle had a quick start and managed to dodge most of the obstacles on a straight course. But the car quickly came to a stop when it reached a narrow course as it failed to recognize the obstacles at either side of the road.

“Some vehicles from leading carmakers such as Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors are already equipped with semi-autonomous technologies but for the public to be able to see a completed autonomous vehicle will take years,” said a doctoral candidate in automobile engineering from a local university surnamed Kim.

Hyundai Motor did not participate at the autonomous motor show. But the carmaker is developing self-driving technologies of its own with an aim to put a fully autonomous car on the road by 2030.

The motor show is part of a series of efforts by the Gyeonggi provincial government to gain a competitive edge in the growing autonomous vehicle market.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport opened K-City, a test bed for autonomous vehicles that provides real-like road conditions, in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi. At the moment, only the highways of the town are completed. The 320,000-square-meter (79 acre) test track will be fully constructed by next year, according to the government.

The government of Gyeonggi will also put the “Zero Shuttle” on a trial run starting next month. Zero Shuttle is an autonomous shuttle bus unveiled on the first day of the motor show on Thursday and the first commercial application of unmanned vehicles in Korea.

The bus will be tested on a 5.5-kilometer (3.4-mile) route from Pangyo Zero City to Pangyo Station. The bus was developed by the Advanced Institutes of Convergence Technology, a research institute located in Suwon, Gyeonggi, and will be operated on an LTE network with advanced security by KT, one of the top telecommunication providers in Korea.


BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]