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Hyundai expects your car to drive itself in 2024

Or at least start trying. Full autonomous tech will be ready by 2030.
Sept 25,2019
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Hyundai Motor Group Executive Vice Chairman Euisun Chung, left, and Aptiv CEO Kevin Clark, right, sign an agreement to establish a joint venture dedicated to autonomous driving technology development on Monday in New York City. [HYUNDAI MOTOR GROUP]
Hyundai Motor Executive Vice Chairman Euisun Chung says the company’s goal is to commercialize self-driving cars in 2024.

Chung was speaking to reporters Monday in New York City on the sidelines of the joint venture signing ceremony with autonomous driving technology developer Aptiv.

Hyundai Motor Group announced a $2 billion investment into establishing a joint venture with Aptiv on Monday to develop its own autonomous driving software. The joint venture, expected to launch next year, will be equally owned by the auto group and Aptiv.

Chung said the major reason for the joint venture is to develop technology that can be sold to automakers.

“It is a way to open up possibilities,” he said.

Chung said the plan is to test autonomous driving software developed with Aptiv by the end of 2022 and commercialize self-driving cars adopting the technology from 2024. By the time of commercialization, Chung said “it will be important that [the cars] are satisfactory in terms of quality but also in terms of cost.”

“If our software is outstanding, other carmakers will be able to use the joint venture’s technology. We will put in effort to make that happen,” Chung said. “We could also build complementary relationships with other carmakers.”

While the joint venture will be focusing on developing Level 4 and 5 autonomous driving technologies - top level technology that requires almost no human intervention - Chung said the group’s existing research center in Namyang, Gyeonggi, will keep working on lower-level self-driving technologies used mostly to develop driver assisting services, like adaptive cruise control.

The de facto head of Hyundai Motor Group said autonomous cars will actually be able to drive people around by about 2030.

“The timeline will be different depending on what kind of roads the self-driving cars drive on. On expressways, self-driving cars will be commercialized earlier,” he said. “The timeline will also differ by region. In India, the time could come a bit later compared to [Silicon Valley]. I think Korea will be between the two.”

Chung added that flying cars could be commercialized faster than self-driving cars with Level 5 autonomous driving capabilities that move on land.

“I think such transportation is more like driving an airplane than flying a car,” he said. “Since there are not many obstacles in the air compared to land, it could be a more suitable environment for self-driving vehicles. I think the market for enterprises and individual consumers will grow together.”

Chung also touched on the role hydrogen fuel-cell cars will play once autonomous driving technology is commercialized.

“Once Level 4 and 5 self-driving cars come out, the vehicles will consume a lot of energy, and there will be limitations for battery-powered electric cars to support [autonomous driving,]” Chung said. “As fuel-cell vehicles can drive longer distances, it will be a good platform for autonomous driving.”

Asked about Hyundai Motor Group’s future target markets, Chung said Africa will rise to be a big market in the future, along with India.

“The market is still small [in Africa], but the region has a big population, and there is a lot of room for growth in the shared mobility business,” he said.

As for the Southeast Asian market, Chung said his goal is to make a stable presence there as the market is roughly 90 percent dominated by Japanese automakers.

“It is a unique market [dominated by Japanese carmakers], but I think we have a chance if we come up with a good strategy,” he said.

Chung admitted the group had oversupplied cars in the Chinese market, where it is currently struggling.

“We are gradually reducing our factories [there], but it is still a big market … we think the situation will be figured out soon.”

On the effects of a recent trade dispute between Korea and Japan, Chung said, “The problem is with [securing] some chemical materials, but we are diversifying our suppliers and settling the situation. We hope the economic ties between the two countries are well maintained.”

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]