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Kia joins autonomous race

Soul train: Kia's fleet of self-driving Souls use active cruise control and lane-keep assistance to cruise freeways without driver intervention.

Fully self-driving production vehicles coming from Kia in 2030


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17 Nov 2015

KIA has announced its plans to join the growing number of manufacturers exploring driverless vehicle technology, claiming it will have its first semi-autonomous car ready to roll by 2020.

While many other car-makers are setting ambitious goals of full autonomy in as few as five years, the Korean manufacturer is being more conservative and says completely self-driving production models won’t come along until 2030.

In a statement, Kia announced the allocation of US$2 billion (AU$2.82b) over the next three years to fund an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) project. The program will initially explore driver assistance technology, but will ultimately evolve to produce the company's first fully-autonomous vehicle in around 15 years.

The car-maker has not detailed what kind of technology it is developing, but it has already made significant advances in initial driver assistance systems, such as autonomous braking, lane keep assistance and blind spot monitoring for its recently launched Optima sedan.

More funding is expected to follow the initial budget, which Kia says will enable “the introduction of next-generation smart vehicles.”

Development is already underway with a fleet of specially prepared Kia Souls which are fitted with Highway Driving Assist (HDA), enabling the cars to stay in formation when traveling on freeways.

The vehicles use a combination of now-commonplace features such as active cruise control and lane monitoring to maintain a position relative to other cars in the vicinity.

The vice president of Kia and Hyundai's Central Advanced Research and Engineering Institute, Tea-Won Lim, said it will take some time for semi and fully autonomous technology to find its way into showrooms, but the advantages would be worth the wait.

“Fully-autonomous vehicles are still some way off, and a great deal of research and rigorous product testing will need to be carried out to make the 'self-driving car' a reality,” he said.

“Kia is still in the early stages of developing its own technologies, and we are confident that the latest innovations – both partially and fully autonomous – will ultimately make driving safer for everyone.”

Earlier this month, ARRB and Volvo conducted Australia's first public road autonomous vehicle demonstration, when a modified CX90 travelled a section of the Southern Highway in South Australia without human intervention.

ARRB managing director Gerald Waldron later said that driverless vehicles would be seen on local roads as early as 2018.

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