Hyundai Mobis Develops Steering System for Autonomous Vehicles

South Korean auto parts supplier Hyundai Mobis announced it has developed an electric power steering system optimized for autonomous vehicles.

Two independent electronic circuits are applied to one steering system, which means that even if one circuit breaks down, the other circuit will work normally and maintain stable driving.

The two systems watch over each other through high-speed communication, and check if the counterpart is working normally.

If a problem is detected, the first system is turned off, and the second system will be activated. This is how the vehicle is controlled.

The company, which forms the parts and service arm for the South Korean automakers Hyundai Motor Company, Genesis Motors and Kia Motors, announced that it is planning to complete reliability evaluation, including road tests by the end of the year and is aiming for mass-production in 2020.

Christian Renaud, Internet of Things research director at IT analyst firm 451 Research, said while mass-production of electronic steering systems is still a few years out, that lead time will give the automotive OEMs time to work out any implementation issues between 2020 and 2025.

“Autonomous vehicles will also take some time to penetrate the market, due to standard automotive ownership cycles, safety concerns, technical hurdles, and regulatory barriers, which gives electronic steering systems time to mature as a technology before they become commonplace,” Renaud explained.

To implement this new technology, Hyundai Mobis reduced the size of the electronic control unit (ECU), which plays the role of the human brain in the electric power steering system.

“The steering control systems will need to be able to function as traditional steering systems, fully-autonomous, and the much harder conditional autonomy stage where the vehicle is self-driving in some contexts and human driven in other contexts–not to mention emergency take-over protocols,” Renaud said.

He explained this in-between stage between non and full autonomy would help uncover deficiencies in AI models for self-driving — which require the driver to override AV software — meaning the steering system will need to be dynamic enough to adapt to all potential scenarios.

Renaud noted that while automatic steering, which he said can be shocking and disconcerting to the first time driver — he pointed to the multitude of YouTube videos with initial reaction shots of people engaging Tesla autopilot on a curvy road — it will become be a lynchpin of autonomous driving.

He said safety concerns would be a key barrier to widespread adoption of autonomous vehicle deployment, influencing regulatory posture, insurance rates, and driver acceptance.

In addition to autonomous steering sensors, Hyundai Mobis is also developing high-performance radars that scan 360-degrees around the vehicle, and is also seeking to develop cameras based on deep learning technology through cooperation with domestic and overseas startups.

“As fully redundant electronic power steering requires two separate controlling systems, a vehicle also requires dual mode designs for battery power, telecommunication, and a module set for autonomous driving,” Kim Se-il, head of the chassis division R&D center of Hyundai Mobis, wrote in an email.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.

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