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Hyundai Steps Up to Autonomous Driving

David Alexander — July 31, 2014

First established in 1967 to build cars under license from Ford, South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Company is a relative newcomer to the automotive world.  In 1976, it began producing its first internally designed car, and in 1986, it began exporting cars to America.  In 1990, the company established a design center in California, and in 2005, it began production of vehicles and engines in Alabama.  In 2012, the Hyundai Motor Group (including Kia Motors, which is one-third owned by Hyundai Motor) was ranked fourth in the world in terms of overall vehicle production behind Toyota, General Motors, and Volkswagen.

Today Hyundai is well-established in Brazil, China, India, and Europe.  The only remaining major market it has not tapped is Japan, where it competes only with its small commercial vehicles.  Now, Hyundai is looking to become a leader in autonomous driving.

Assisted Driving Drama

Hyundai’s early sales success came from building simple, low-cost vehicles and then establishing a reputation for reliability by offering warranties of 10 years or 100,000 miles.  Once it had acquired the status of a quality vehicle manufacturer, it then shifted focus to safety.  Never among the new technology leaders, it was one of the first manufacturers to make antilock braking systems standard on practically all its models.  As advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have been introduced to the market, Hyundai has quietly kept its flagship vehicles updated with key features such as adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.

The last 12 months or so have seen a flurry of media coverage of autonomous vehicles, with various manufacturers and suppliers (and non-automotive companies such as Google) making announcements about their efforts developing and testing self-driving cars.  In July, Hyundai released a dramatic video to demonstrate that it will not be left behind in this new technology arena.  Click here to watch.

No Vertical Exits

Hyundai wants to showcase the driver assistance technology features that have been added to its new Genesis model.  The technologies include smart cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and a lane-keeping assist system.  The only adaptation Hyundai had to make to the technology for this demo was to modify the lane-keeping assist system not to turn off when it sensed there was no longer a driver holding the steering wheel.

What this video demonstrates rather theatrically is the capability of today’s technology to perform simple driving tasks efficiently and reliably.  All the major manufacturers, along with their Tier One supplier partners, have this capability today, and freeways would be just as safe and potentially less prone to traffic jams if such features were widely used.  All that’s needed is legislation permitting the use of automatic lane-keeping systems to assume full control of the steering, rather than just assisting the driver as they do today.  And possibly a warning sticker advising drivers not to exit via the sunroof when the vehicle is in motion – unless there is a truck fitted with an airbed alongside.

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