Hyundai unveils its self-driving car company, Motional

Hyundai unveils its self-driving car company Motional and announces plans to roll out a fleet of robotaxis by 2022

  • Hyundai announced its autonomous vehicle company is now called Motional
  • The carmaker says it will start fully testing driverless systems this year
  •  Motional represents a $4 billion venture with self-driving tech company Aptiv

Hyundai has unveiled the name of its autonomous vehicle partnership with Aptiv: Motional.

The Korean carmaker, which first announced the project in March, says it will begin fully testing driverless systems later this year. 

Motional is set to develop and commercilize Level 4 autonomous vehicles that perform all driving tasks.

Its goal is to roll out a fleet of self-driving cars for robotaxi providers by 2022 and to the general public by 2027. 

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Motional, the name of Hyundai’s autonomous driving partnership with Aptiv, was unveiled today. The South Korean automaker says it plans on rolling out on a fleet of self-driving vehicles by 2020

‘We have a long history of being on the cutting edge of automotive technology and look forward to continuing that legacy with Motional,’ said Hyundai executive vice chairman Euisun Chung.

The name Motional was inspired by the ‘motion’ of driving and the ’emotion’ of safely completing a journey.

‘Whether we like it or not these days transportation decisions are emotional decisions,’ Iagnemma told The Verge. ‘Choosing how to get from A to B safely, that’s an emotional decision. So Motional will keep that insight central to every product we develop.’ 

The venture represents a $4 billion, 50-50 deal with self-driving tech company Aptiv, formerly known as Delphi Automotive, bolstered by financial support from the South Korean government. 

The name Motional was inspired by the ‘motion’ of driving and the ’emotion’ of completing a journey. 

Motional CEO and president Karl Iagnemma launched the driverless startup NuTonomy in 2013, before selling it to Delphi in 2017 for $400 million.   

His engineers were responsible for the the world’s first robotaxi pilot program in Singapore, and the first truly autonomous cross-country trip in the US, from New York to San Francisco.

Aptiv’s fleet of self-driving cars completed more than 100,000 Lyft rides in Las Vegas, though they were always backed up by human operators.

While COVID-19 has decimated Uber and Lyft, as passengers are wary of shared vehicles, Iagnemma said the pandemic has made driverless technology ‘more relevant than ever.’

‘The pandemic has challenged the global community to re-think transportation, and governments and individuals want more and better options.’

Whether the public is ready to embrace self-driving cars remains to be seen.

A UK survey from 2019 found that less than a quarter of respondents trusted an AI to take the wheel. Two-thirds said they just enjoyed the experience of driving.       

A separate study suggested driverless cars made riders worse drivers themselves, and less able to take over the wheel in an emergency. 

Nearly half of drivers had to look at the floor to make sure their feet were on the right pedals when asked to take control of the car. Over 80 percent used their phones while on the simulated roadway. Others read, applied make-up or slept. 

‘Retaking control of a speeding car is a dangerous task, and the idea of the human driver being available to take over in an emergency looks to be fraught with difficulty,’ said Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, a UK transport policy nonprofit.

HOW DO SELF-DRIVING CARS ‘SEE’? 

Self-driving cars often use a combination of normal two-dimensional cameras and depth-sensing ‘LiDAR’ units to recognize the world around them.

However, others make use of visible light cameras that capture imagery of the roads and streets. 

They are trained with a wealth of information and vast databases of hundreds of thousands of clips which are processed using artificial intelligence to accurately identify people, signs and hazards.   

In LiDAR (light detection and ranging) scanning – which is used by Waymo – one or more lasers send out short pulses, which bounce back when they hit an obstacle.

These sensors constantly scan the surrounding areas looking for information, acting as the ‘eyes’ of the car.

While the units supply depth information, their low resolution makes it hard to detect small, faraway objects without help from a normal camera linked to it in real time.

In November 2018, Apple revealed details of its driverless car system that uses lasers to detect pedestrians and cyclists from a distance.

The Apple researchers said they were able to get ‘highly encouraging results’ in spotting pedestrians and cyclists with just LiDAR data.

They also wrote they were able to beat other approaches for detecting three-dimensional objects that use only LiDAR.

Other self-driving cars generally rely on a combination of cameras, sensors and lasers. 

An example is Volvo’s self driving cars that rely on around 28 cameras, sensors and lasers.

A network of computers process information, which together with GPS, generates a real-time map of moving and stationary objects in the environment.

Twelve ultrasonic sensors around the car are used to identify objects close to the vehicle and support autonomous drive at low speeds.

A wave radar and camera placed on the windscreen reads traffic signs and the road’s curvature and can detect objects on the road such as other road users.

Four radars behind the front and rear bumpers also locate objects.

Two long-range radars on the bumper are used to detect fast-moving vehicles approaching from far behind, which is useful on motorways.

Four cameras – two on the wing mirrors, one on the grille and one on the rear bumper – monitor objects in close proximity to the vehicle and lane markings.  

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