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Carmakers close in on driverless dream

Hyundai‘s autonomous driving technology demonstration (Hyundai Motor)
Hyundai‘s autonomous driving technology demonstration (Hyundai Motor)
Google’s self-driving car (AFP)
Google’s self-driving car (AFP)
   For many people who think of driving as a chore, driverless driving might just sound like a dream.

But the recent news of German carmaker Audi as well as tech giant Google’s success in developing “self-driving cars” has shown that this has neared our doorstep, enabling all passengers to enjoy reading, eating, sleeping and whatever they want while their car and its artificial intelligence sort its way to the destination.

According to Reuters, Google recently brought its autonomous cars to the California highways to see how well they mix with regular traffic. The information technology giant has created a website (, for people to have a virtual experience with the robot cars.

“Aging or visually impaired loved ones wouldn‘t have to give up their independence. Time spent commuting could be time spent doing what you want to do. Deaths from traffic accidents -- over 1.2 million worldwide every year -- could be reduced dramatically, especially since 94 percent of accidents in the U.S. involve human error,” the company wrote.

In fact, much of the technology for autonomous driving -- carmakers refrain from using “driverless driving,” claiming that a person still needs to watch over the overall status and operation of the car -- is adapted to many cars out in the market.

Hyundai Motor in March announced its blueprint to mass-produce fully automated cars by 2030. Aimed at providing technology for everyday use, the company‘s driving assistance technology allows drivers to touch neither the steering wheel nor the brake to follow the car in front, even when there is no visible lane on the road.

Moreover, when a car from the next lane attempts to join the driver’s lane in front of the car, it will automatically slow down or stop to create space and avoid accidents. “This means that the car is capable of sensing things without a blind spot, instead of focusing on the conventional front and rear,” a Hyundai spokesman said.

U.S. carmaker Ford’s “pre-collision assist” program detecting pedestrians nearby is expected to be loaded onto its Mondeo cars starting next year in Europe. Mercedes-Benz believes its ”smart driving“ technology will enhance safety on the road.

Self-driving cars also appear useful in parking, one of the trickiest parts of driving for many.

The upcoming BMW 7-series scheduled to be released in October is equipped with the “remote control parking” program, where all one needs to park his or her premium car is a push of a button. First introduced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the program directs the car to scan the 360 degrees of the surrounding environment and move for parking. 

Kia’s New Soul EV also supports all-automated parking. “Before, the driver needed to push the accelerator and brakes, but we took it to the new level, removing the driver’s duty from the process,” a Kia spokesman said.

An industry insider pointed out that while most pieces of technology for autonomous driving have been developed so far, the reality hinders carmakers from adapting them in real products.

“What if there is an accident? Is the man in the car (not driving) responsible? Or is it the carmaker? Also when man-driving and self-driving cars are mixed on the street, a lot of confusion might occur,” a spokesman for an imported car brand said.

“We need a government guideline first in order to create an appropriate environment for fully automated cars on the street,” she added.

By Bae Ji-sook (