Convoy of Autonomous Hyundais Drives From Seoul to Pyeongchang

Hyundai will commercialize self-driving cars for 'smart cities' by 2021.

Hyundai sent a convoy of five self-driving cars on a road trip from Seoul to Pyeongchang, South Korea, site of the 2018 Winter Olympics. Cars drove the full 190 kilometers (118 miles) between the two cities in autonomous mode, according to Hyundai, which hopes to begin limited production of self-driving cars by 2021.

The convoy consisted of five cars, three of which were modified Hyundai Nexo hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. Unveiled at CES 2018, the Nexo will replace the Tucson Fuel Cell when it goes into production later this year. Hyundai claims this is the first time autonomous-driving tech has been used in a fuel-cell vehicle. The other two cars in the convoy were modified Genesis G80 sedans from the automaker’s luxury brand.

Hyundai originally discussed demonstrating self-driving cars at the Pyeongchang Olympic site, but this highway cruise was a bit more ambitious. The cars were unleashed into real-world traffic rather than being corralled into a controlled zone. While tests like this are becoming common in other parts of the world, Hyundai said this was the first time self-driving cars were driven such a long distance at highway speeds in South Korea.

All cars used in the test were SAE Level 4, meaning they are capable of autonomous driving in most circumstances, but may still require occasional human assistance. Each car sported the array of radar, lidar, and cameras that is typical of current autonomous prototypes, and was connected to a 5G network from Korean firm KT Corp. Hyundai plans to use 5G connectivity to entertain passengers in future self-driving cars, even devising a karaoke app called Everysing.

Hyundai hopes to get its first production self-driving cars on the road by 2021. Autonomous cars will initially be limited to “smart cities” that have some level of support infrastructure, the automaker said, with larger-scale production planned for 2030. Hyundai is working with U.S. startup Aurora Innovation on self-driving car development.