Currently reading: Hyundai-Kia pushing for autonomous technology
The autonomous development is being overseen by ex-Daimler-Chyrsler, Siemens and Conitental engineer Gregory Baratoff

Hyundai-Kia has built a dedicated proving ground to develop autonomous vehicles and is targeting global leadership in the technology it admits it has been slow to develop to this point.

The vast 276-acre site, close to Hyundai-Kia’s existing Namyang proving ground in Seosan, South Korea, is run by the Hyundai-owned Mobis supplier firm, which has been contracted to develop autonomous vehicles.

The current fleet of autonomous vehicles, based on domestic market Kia K5 (Optima) saloons, are called M.Billy, which stands for Mobis Intelligent Learning Library. The fleet is a small one – just three vehicles across Korea, the US and Europe – but it will expand to 20 in 2019.

The autonomous development is being overseen by ex-Daimler-Chyrsler, Siemens and Conitental engineer Gregory Baratoff, who said Hyundai Mobis was a long way behind German firms in developing its own radars, cameras and sensors that are key to ensuring autonomous vehicles can operate, as well as the software that runs them.

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He expects it’ll be 2021 before Hyundai Mobis’s Level 2 autonomous technology is a match for the German technology firms. “We’re behind the curve at the moment,” he said. “It’ll take four years to internalise the key technology and catch up with the likes of Bosch and Continental.”

From 2021-2025 it will then develop the most advanced Level 3-5 systems that will are needed to allow fully autonomous driving – should legislation ever allow it. Mobis than plans to commercialise the technology to sell to other companies, as well as use on Hyundai-Kia’s own vehicles.

The autonomous test facility includes 14 testing tracks, including a fake city with fake shops, junctions, traffic lights and roundabouts. It’s not only used for developing the cameras and sensors, but also the kinds of vehicle-to-infrastructure technology that will also be crucial if autonomous cars are ever to work in real-world circumstances.


Why the name M.Billy? “We want to make autonomous cars friendly,” says chief engineer Gregory Baratoff. The name might be a gimmick, but the technology isn’t. Autonomous ridealong stories have been told on these pages before, but the M.Billy demonstrated two impressive things on its trip around Hyundai Mobis’s fake city streets.

First, it used a roundabout. It waited while another car entered from the left, and then negotiated entry and exit behind that car. Next, we were overtaken by another car on a two-lane road, before being cut up and the car stopping in front of us – we were just as quick to move to the other lane and go round the new-found obstacle.

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The technology remains very much in its infancy, and the speed at which it tackles situations that remain controlled are careful and considered. Yet it is nonetheless impressive to experience, with more life-like situations being tested and the car learning how to deal with them and think for itself by the day.

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Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.

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Harry Hillstart 24 September 2018

The Irony...

... of having to 'push' for autonomous technology