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Korea lacks data to operate autonomous vehicles

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Hyundai Motor's autonomous Ioniq 5 electric vehicle on a test drive around Seoul on June 9. Courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group
Hyundai Motor's autonomous Ioniq 5 electric vehicle on a test drive around Seoul on June 9. Courtesy of Hyundai Motor Group

By Kim Hyun-bin

Amid intensifying competition to gain an edge in the self-driving vehicle market, concerns are rising that Korea might lose in the game as it lacks data to implement autonomous driving. Industry experts stress that a better environment should be established to accumulate autonomous driving data as in other leading countries such as China and the U.S.

According to KMPG, a global consulting firm Friday, the autonomous vehicle market is expected to grow from $7.1 billion in 2020 to $1.12 trillion in 2035.

Led by major countries such as China and the U.S, competition is intensifying. China's Baidu will deploy 10 "Apollo 5th Generation" robot taxis, five each in Wuhan and Chongqing. This is the first time a fully autonomous taxi has been licensed in China. Baidu conducted a test drive of 21 million kilometers through last year.

The U.S. is also ramping up efforts to gain an upper hand in the autonomous driving market. Waymo, which has accumulated 32 million kilometers of test driving as of 2020, has been operating an unmanned pilot service with 300 cars in Arizona since 2020.

GM Cruise has been operating the service since last year after getting an unmanned operating license in California. As of last year, more than 1,400 cars were launched on a self-driving pilot service in the U.S.

As a result, the U.S. and China are conducting large-scale tests to secure crucial data under various circumstances, such as unexpected situations, through the pilot services.

On the other hand, Korea is experiencing difficulties in securing data. The self-driving pilot service in Korea is being conducted with limited vehicles in 14 regions. As of last year, the number of Korea's pilot service autonomous vehicles totaled 220, with only 720,000 kilometers accumulated test driving, which is insufficient compared with other leading countries.

"The autonomous driving pilot service can identify problems that were not revealed in the R&D stage, and when these processes are accumulated, advanced technology development can be achieved," an industry official said. "We need to operate more pilot services to acquire more data."

Due to these circumstances, Hyundai is developing self-driving cars in the U.S. Hyundai Motor has established Motional, an autonomous driving joint venture with Aptiv, and will operate Ioniq 5-based robot taxi services in some regions in the U.S. next year. Motional has partnered with Lyft to operate a robot taxi pilot service in Las Vegas.
Kim Hyun-bin hyunbin@koreatimes.co.kr


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