A fleet of Hyundai Motor Company’s next generation fuel cell electric vehicles have succeeded in completing a self-driven 118 mile journey from Seoul to Pyeongchang.
This is the first time in the world that level 4 autonomous driving has been achieved with fuel cell electric vehicles.
Until now, autonomous driving has been demonstrated only on selected sections of Korean domestic roads and at a limited speed, this is the first time autonomous vehicles have operated on public highways at 110 km/h, the maximum speed allowed by law on Korean highways.
Three Hyundai vehicles completed the journey, all based on NEXO, Hyundai’s next-generation fuel cell electric vehicle (pictured) which is scheduled to be released in Korea next month. All vehicles were equipped with level 4 self-driving technology, as defined by the SAE international standards and equipped with 5G network technology.
The demonstration took place in Seoul on Feb 2, with the ‘CRUISE’ and ‘SET’ buttons being pressed on the autonomous-driving steering wheel of each vehicle, at which point the cars immediately switched to self-driving mode and began the 118 mile journey to Pyeongchang. Entering the highway, the vehicles moved in response to the natural flow of traffic, executed lane changes, overtaking manoeuvres and navigated toll gates using Hi-pass, South-Korea’s wireless expressway payment system.
Building on the successful demonstration of Hyundai’s vehicles which drove autonomously in Las Vegas during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) early last year, the cars feature a number of advanced technologies that enable them to recognise surrounding vehicles more accurately and make better judgements at junctions and navigate through toll gates by accurately calculating the toll gate’s width and position. The vehicles are also able to pinpoint their position on a map by using external sensors fitted for situations when the GPS signal was interrupted, such as going through underground tunnels.
Hyundai has conducted a significant number of highway test drives amounting to hundreds of thousands of miles travelled, which has enabled the accumulation of data to enhance the performance of its self-driving vehicles. Jinwoo Lee, Head of the Intelligent Safety Technology Centre at Hyundai Motor Group said: “Hyundai’s philosophy for developing autonomous driving technology is to provide the highest level of safety combined with a high standard of convenience that our customers expect.”
The exterior and interior of self-driving vehicles used for this demonstration look similar to Hyundai’s other mass-produced models but are installed with additional cameras and LIDARs. Adding a small number of sensors to mass produced vehicles has enabled the realisation of fully autonomous driving technology, bringing Hyundai closer to the commercialisation of self-driving technology.
During autonomous driving, a high volume of data is processed by the vehicles on board systems, necessitating large power consumption. A fuel cell electric vehicle is able to produce electricity to meet this power consumption, as well as powering the vehicles drive systems, through a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen in the fuel cell stack, with the only tail pipe emission being water vapour, making it the optimal vehicle model choice for this test. The vehicle chosen for this test was NEXO, Hyundai’s next generation fuel cell electric vehicle, which has a target range of 500 miles (NEDC) on a single charge of hydrogen and takes only five minutes to refuel. NEXO boasts world-class system efficiency of 60%, durability equivalent to internal combustion engine-driven vehicles and a load space of 839 litres.