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SK Telecom gets approval to test self-driving cars in Korea

SK Telecom said Wednesday it was granted permission by the government to test autonomous cars on public roads using Hyundai vehicles.

SKT, which is the first local mobile carrier to gain the approval, said it plans to develop a self-driving car with Hyundai’s luxury vehicle Genesis G80 in partnership with Seoul National University and the US chipmaker Nvidia.

The latest announcement is part of the firm’s self-driving efforts, which include unveiling the 5G connected car solution T5 in partnership with BMW in November last year and a partnership with Nvidia in May to jointly develop autonomous driving technologies.

“We will mainly focus on developing artificial intelligence software, a 3-D high-precision map solution and 5G vehicle-to-everything technology to improve autonomous driving safety,” a SK Telecom spokesperson said in a statement. 

SK Telecom tests self-driving cars on public roads. (SK Telecom)
SK Telecom tests self-driving cars on public roads. (SK Telecom)

The 3-D high-precision map solution captures images of objects smaller than 25 square centimeters, enabling a car to avoid obstacles that are too small to be captured by existing map solutions available in the market.

The 5G vehicle-to-everything technology, or 5G V2X, is a network allowing cars to exchange traffic information real-time with vehicle control centers and traffic lights to prevent accidents. The 5G network allows faster communication with a response time of less than 0.001 second.

SKT also plans to use big data accumulated from its mobile navigation service, T-Map, to develop a self-driving algorithm to upgrade AI software. T-Map currently has more than 10 million monthly users.

Apart from the telecom company, the nation’s academics, automakers and tech giants have recently jumped into the self-driving race.

This year alone, ten organizations, including Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, Mando, Seoul National University, Hanyang University, KAIST, Naver, the Korea Transportation Safety Authority, Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics were granted permission to test self-driving cars on public roads.

IHS Automotive predicted 21 million self-driving cars would be on roads worldwide by 2035. 

By Shin Ji-hye (