For those who are wondering whether the future of motoring is in electric vehicles or autonomous driving, Hyundai is telling us it’s likely both, with the successful completion of a 190-km autonomous drive in fuel-cell electric Nexo models.
The data-processing requirements of autonomous driving requires a lot of power, which makes a fuel-cell electric vehicle ideal for autonomy because it is able to produce electricity for this task, while still powering the vehicle’s drive system.
Nexo was chosen as the basis for the autonomous vehicles because of its reported 805-km driving range on a single charge of hydrogen, and its system efficiency rating of 60%. The presentation is similar to that of the production ready vehicle, except that it was fitted with additional cameras and LIDAR (LIght Detection And Radar) for the autonomous vehicle functions. The latter characteristic makes autonomous driving closer than people might think because it illustrates that the necessary autonomous system equipment can be added to a vehicle already in production.
Three Nexo fuel-cell vehicles made the 110 km/h highway drive from Seoul to the city of Pyeongchang, prior to the opening ceremonies of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, completing South Korea’s longest Level 4 autonomous drive (where no driver attention is required at all in designated areas, and the vehicle must be able to park itself outside those areas) and a world first for fuel cell vehicles.
The vehicles were set into autonomous mode prior to entering the highway and accelerated to match the speed of the traffic flow, and along the way, they executed lane changes, overtook slower vehicles, and even negotiated toll stations using the wireless Hi-Pass system.
The new autonomous vehicles are improved from those shown at CES 2018 in Las Vegas in that they can recognized other vehicles more accurately, make better decisions at intersections and at highway structures such as toll-gates, and can also more accurately pinpoint its location even when the GPS signal is lost (such as in tunnels).
Hyundai plans to commercialize autonomous vehicles for use in smart cities by 2021, and full autonomy by 2030. The Nexo is scheduled for release in March 2018.