Kia has been hard at work developing their new Autonomous driving vehicle, the Self-Driving Vehicle, which was presented to us at Hyundai’s California Proving Grounds (CPG). There have been other manufacturers that have been developing there own autonomous vehicle but none have ever gotten this far in their development.
Kia kept the same two-toned color theme interior, the black & red and white & turquoise. The technology inside was well balanced with the interior giving it a premium feel that reflected its precision and quality.
Kia’s two toned theme continued to the exterior of the car with a beautiful paint job, and graphics of their mission to offer “Green & Intelligent Safety Driving” in the future. Taking a closer look at the Soul, we could see that there were additional sensors for the autonomous driving program that were so well placed, it was hard to see the new additions.
The Driving Experience
Kia began the autonomous driving experience in a very impressive fashion, by one of the Kia Engineers literally calling the car with his smartwatch. It was impressive to see the Soul leave from a parking spot, and valet itself front of us.
Once Inside car, we witnessed the Soul drive itself away from the building towards the high speed loop. During the drive the car proved itself by immediately stopping if someone were to walk in front of it, recognized stop signs, and signal lights. The Soul did a great job at respecting all the rules of the road that come with normal driving.
On the on ramp, we felt the car get up to highway speeds. Kia took it one step further and introduced the Soul to 3 other cars around in its high speed oval track which is 6.4 miles long and 3 lanes wide. There were several exercises that simulated highway traffic, and in each exercise the Soul handled itself perfectly. For instance, in stop and go traffic, the car would match all other car’s pace leaving respectable room and anticipating other cars immediately merging into its lane. Furthermore, the Soul change lanes without any driver input to overtake a slow vehicle. During the demonstration, the Soul wasn’t shy about getting up to speed, by it reaching up to 70 MPH while remaining very smooth during straight and long turns.
One of the most impressive features during the demonstration was its driver awareness, where the engineer simulated a driver falling asleep or ill and the car reacted through eye, and body sensing technology by initiating a safety mode. The Soul intelligently changed lanes as well as recognized the emergency lane where it pulled over to the side, and called for rescue. Furthermore, during the exercise the Soul communicated with the safety car through wireless communication, and it was safely towed through a cyber link that required no straps, additional connections, or anything else leaving many of us in awe.
Kia’s Plans for the Autonomous Driving Vehicle
In their press conference, Kia announced a step by step plan to make the autonomous driving vehicle available by 2030. Their first step is to invest 2 billion dollars into autonomous driving research by 2018. Furthermore, they are planning to construct an area dedicated to autonomous driving research in their proving grounds. Part of this construction involves building an area to simulate city conditions with houses, stop signs, and traffic signals. In addition, Kia will take steps at integrating their technology long before the autonomous vehicle is made into production. Beginning with their Advance Driver Assistance System (ADAS) is expected to be available to all Kia models by 2020. From 2020 to 2030 Kia will have the successor to ADAS which is a partially automated driving program under the name Drive Wise.