Fully automated cars get limelight

By Kim Young-won

Car-driver connectivity steals the show at this year’s CES

  • Published : Jan 8, 2014 - 20:02
  • Updated : Feb 9, 2014 - 12:10
Despite the high expectations for advancements in car technology, namely in the form of autonomous or even unmanned vehicles, global carmakers said it would take at least another 10 years before people could experience such cars in their everyday lives.

“Fully autonomous driving cannot be utilized right away due to safety reasons. It will likely remain as a driving assistance system for a while,” said Lee Bong-hwan, executive vice president of Hyundai Mobis, who paid a visit to exhibition booths of global car companies including Kia Motors and Mazda at the 2014 International CES on Wednesday.

“Self-driving is one of Hyundai Motor Group’s core projects, but we are going to take gradual steps until the market is fully ready for the technology,” said Lee, who also leads the firm’s R&D division.

His comments echoed others in the global car industry who took part this week in the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where vehicles sporting high-tech gadgets and features were put on display alongside traditional electronic goods.

The fanfare was such that spectators asked themselves whether this was a show for cars, or for electronics.

Gary Shapiro, chairman of the Consumer Electronics Association, noted that more focus seemed to be geared toward electronics technology than automotive advancements.

Claiming that it would take a generation to see self-driving cars on the roads, Jim Pisz, corporate manager of Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S., noted that automated technology is much more about human acceptance than it is about the development of technology.

Toyota’s Fuel Cell Vehicle concept. (Kim Young-won/The Korea Herald)
“The issue of trust is a major challenge for adopting the self-driving technology in cars,” he said. “If you have a small child at home, would you allow your automated car to take your child to school in the morning by itself?”

He said Toyota would take a gradual approach toward fully automated vehicles.

“In order for the fully automated cars to be seen on the roads, sensor arrays mounted on the cars have to become less expensive, and regulations and legal issues should be solved first for the installation of the technology on a large scale.”

Audi S8. (Kim Young-won/The Korea Herald)
Showcasing its automated parking car at the Las Vegas Convention Center, leading luxury carmaker Audi said it was aiming to mass-produce the self-parking car within five years.

After that, it will venture into fully automated vehicles.

“Self-parking technology will become mainstream,” said Florian Schuller, project leader at Audi’s piloted parking team. “The Audi models that will be shipped in Korea will incorporate the technology in five years as well.”

People will also not be willing to give up the experience of driving a car, officials of several global companies added.

“There are still many who do not want to lose the driving experience to an automatic system,” said Stefan Cross, General Motors’ communications manager.

A recent report released by market research firm IHS Inc. also forecast that the first self-driving cars would hit the road in 2024, and global sales are expected to rise to 226,000 in 2025, and 11.8 million in 2035.

Meanwhile, connectivity was a major car technology that came to the media spotlight at the CES.

Ford announced its own application market called Sync AppLink is available for 3.4 million vehicles, while GM also showcased its AppShop for applications such as the car monitoring app Vehicle Health and radio app NPR.

BMW introduced its i3 electric car featuring an application that can be synced with Samsung Electronics’ smart watch Galaxy Gear, through which a driver can monitor car information including the battery and driving records.

By Kim Young-won, Korea Herald correspondent (