The technology in the autonomous Ioniq
The only sign that this Ioniq hybrid was different from any other was the monitor fixed to the passenger side of the dashboard, which displayed a ‘virtual view’ of the road, as perceived by the car’s on-board computer.
While the autonomous Ioniq was first shown to the public at last year’s Los Angeles Motor Show, Hyundai has been developing the system since 2010. Unlike some other car companies, which have partnered with specialist IT firms, most of the software that powers the Ioniq’s artificial intelligence has been developed in house. The software developer sitting behind the wheel for our test outing reckoned 90% of the code is Hyundai’s own.
That developer declined to say how many sensors were fitted to the car, or their exact arrangement. The first version Hyundai tested used seven sensors – three Radar, three LiDAR and one camera - and the new system has 'several more'. The firm previously revealed that the system had been designed to utilise sensors already on the car for systems such as cruise control in order to keep costs down.
The system we were driven by can currently achieve level three autonomy, which means the vehicle takes on ‘safety critical’ functions, although a driver for certain conditions, and to intervene if necessary. Hyundai are already working on a system featuring level four autonomy.
Hyundai reckon the system is currently effective in rain, but struggled to cope with snow – because it covered up the lane markings used for guidance. As well as extensive running around the Hyundai R&D Centre’s roads and test tracks, the Ioniq hybrid has been tested extensively on open roads near Namyang, at speeds of up to 120km/h.
How well does the Ioniq hybrid drive?
The short, pre-programmed test route we experienced didn’t give the autonomous Ioniq the chance to reach 120km/h – the speed limit never topped 40km/h. But the route did take in one of the busiest stretches, leading to the site’s main entrance. As well as navigating the course, the system had to cope with obstacles including other traffic (a surreal mix of banged-up Korean delivery vans, coaches and myriad camoflagued Hyundai, Kia and Genesis test machines), speed bumps and pedestrians.
The system is engaged by pressing the ‘cruise’ button on the steering wheel – pressing it again hands control back to the driver. And it felt assured and safe at all times.