Weekly Brief: Hyundai eyes-up Asia driverless taxi market

Hyundai’s latest Level 4 trial hints at the scale of its ambitions in Asia. Andrew Tolve reports.
On a sun-kissed day last week in South Korea, Hyundai completed a Level 4 autonomous trial from the capital city of Seoul to the home of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Five self-driving sedans and SUVs made the trip in total, covering a distance of 118 miles at highway speeds the whole way without any human intervention or incidents. Three of the five cars were powered by hydrogen fuel cell technology.

The details here are, frankly, not that important. Lots of carmakers and tech companies experimenting with autonomous tech have completed much longer or more technically challenging trials than this and some of them, like Waymo, have done so with customers in the backseat. The important part here is that for years Hyundai was absent from the self-driving car conversation; now the world’s number five automaker is trying to make up for lost time.

This January the company set up a team of 200 strategists and researchers to make Hyundai a leader in disruptive transportation technologies like autonomous software and artificial intelligence. It also partnered with Cisco and Baidu to improve its connected car chops. Now, with the trial successfully in its back pocket, the company says it plans to begin testing a driverless taxi service as soon as possible. With the Asian market still wide open for driverless taxi services, look for Hyundai to become a central player in the next twelve months.

In other news, after a year of juicy accusations and legal wrangling, the Waymo versus Uber lawsuit finally goes to trial this week. Waymo claims that Uber stole 14,000 confidential files and the blueprint for its LiDAR system allegedly thanks to some Hollywood-esque corporate espionage on the part of Anthony Levandowski, the former head of Google’s self-driving car division. Ten jurors will decide the case in the coming three weeks in San Francisco. At stake? Up to $1.8Bn (£1.27Bn) and the future of Uber’s self-driving car programme.

Waymo isn’t waiting around for the verdict. The company announced two weeks ago that it’s expanding its driverless ridesharing service to Atlanta and last week revealed that it has requested “thousands” of hybrid Pacifica minivans from Fiat Chrysler with the intention of rapidly growing its fleet. Waymo provided no specifics on how many thousands “thousands” actually means.

Ford’s new Smart Mobility division acquired Autonomic, a technology company that specialises in scale, architecture and leverage for transportation solutions and has named Autonomic CEO Sunny Madra leader of its new Ford X team. Ford also announced the acquisition of TransLoc, a provider of demand-response technology for city-owned micro-transit solutions. No financial details of either deal were disclosed.
Daimler and Bosch plan to launch a driverless taxi service in the next several months, according to Bosch’s CEO Volkmar Denner. He didn’t reveal any details about location or size of the trial, although it’s safe to assume that the trial will include customised Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Daimler has said that it hopes to distinguish itself from the likes of General Motors, BMW and other carmakers working in autonomy by building truly innovative self-driving vehicles from scratch rather than integrating autonomous software into existing models.
Finally, worried about auto break-ins or your car getting nicked in a parking lot while you’re not looking? Enter the Owl Car Cam, the first LTE-connected security camera for car. When driving, dual-facing cameras capture what happens on the road, both inside and outside of the car. When parked, Owl secures the vehicle with sensors that automatically alert the driver via the Owl Cam app. The app lets you see and use HD video evidence of everything from break-ins to mystery parking lot dings, replying video evidence from the past 24 hours.
The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *