Buy an expensive new car these days and it will likely have some form of autonomous driving capability. However, the technology is in its relative infancy and such systems still aren’t meant to be left to their own devices. Case in point: Tesla. But Hyundai thinks that it has mastered the art and science of self-driving cars by creating a robotic minibus that will actually pick up passengers.
It’s called the RoboShuttle, and it is based on the H350 van. It sports electronics developed in-house at Hyundai’s Autonomous Driving Center that is reportedly comparable to a Level 4 system. Based on the official levels of driving automation, Level 4 allows the vehicle to perform all driving tasks under certain conditions. The installation of controls (like a steering wheel and pedals) is merely optional.
The unsightly “warts” on the roof and the holes on the bumpers contain such equipment as LIDAR and proximity sensors that help the van get around the city. Part of the RoboShuttle’s capabilities is making its own decisions with minimal assistance from a human operator. But just to err on the side of safety, authorities have granted the vehicle a Level 3 certificate, which means a driver must be present at all times.
Another part of the RoboShuttle’s technology suite is the Shucle mobile app. Users can show up at a bus stop and request the van to pick them up. By determining the stops that are frequented most by passengers, the RoboShuttle can figure out the most efficient route and drive only to the pick-up and drop-off points that have been preselected on Shucle.
The route that RoboShuttle currently plies is a 6.1km stretch within Sejong Smart City in South Korea. Hyundai’s ongoing research-and-development work in the field of self-driving tech will see a fleet of autonomous vans deployed to ferry employees at the automaker’s Namyang test facility.