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Hyundai & Kia Develop an AI-Powered Transmission Control System That Shifts Based on Road & Traffic Conditions

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【Summary】Hyundai Motor Company and its division Kia have developed a new type of transmission control system that shifts gears based on the current road and traffic conditions. Hyundai says its the world’s first AI-powered predictive vehicle shift system.

Eric Walz    Feb 20, 2020 11:00 AM PT
Hyundai & Kia Develop an AI-Powered Transmission Control System That Shifts Based on Road & Traffic Conditions

The automatic transmission has been around for nearly 100 years in the auto industry. Over the years, computers and electronic solenoids have replaced mechanical and hydraulic components to quickly shift to the optimal gear based on engine speed and accelerator position, which is the most common setup in today's vehicles. 

However, Hyundai Motor Company and its division Kia have developed a new type of transmission control system that shifts gears based on the current road and traffic conditions. Hyundai says its the world's first predictive Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Connected Shift System.

The two automakers filed about 40 major patents in South Korea and abroad for the new system.

Although a "Smart Drive Mode" is already available on most current Hyundai and Kia models that automatically shifts depending on drivers' preferences, the ICT Connected Shift System is the first ICT to automatically shift gears based on current road and traffic conditions.

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How it Works

The ICT Connected Shift System uses software in the Transmission Control Unit (TCU) that collects and interprets real-time input from technologies already installed on the vehicle, including 3D navigation which offers a precise map of the road, as well as cameras and radar used for intelligent cruise control. 

Using all of these inputs, the TCU predicts the optimal gear that the vehicle should be in for real-time driving situations through an artificial intelligence-based algorithm, then automatically shifts to optimal gear based on road and traffic conditions ahead. 

"Vehicles are evolving beyond simple mobility devices into smart mobility solutions," said Byeong Wook Jeon, Head of Intelligent Drivetrain Control Research Lab in a statement. "Even a traditional area of the automobile, such as the powertrain, is becoming a high-tech technology optimized for smart mobility through efforts to integrate ICT and artificial intelligence technologies."

In addition to selecting the optimal gear, the ICT system improves driving comfort and fuel efficiency by minimizing unnecessary shifts through predictive gear-shifting control systems. 

Since the system relies on precise 3D navigation data, the vehicle can automatically slow for change in the speed limit by shifting to a lower gear automatically. While the radar is used to determine the distance and speed of cars ahead to change gears accordingly. A forward-looking camera provides precise lane information.

The 3D navigation input includes elevation, gradient, curvature, as well as current traffic conditions, so the car might shift to a lower gear before approaching a hill for a bit of extra power. Or if a driver is traveling down a long hill and the radar detects no nearby vehicles or changes in speed from any cars ahead, the transmission will automatically shift into neutral to improve fuel efficiency.

The ICT system works when a driver needs some additional power as well. For example, if a driver needs to merge onto a freeway on-ramp, the transmission will automatically shift into "sport mode" so the vehicle can accelerate quicker. Once the vehicle gets up to the speed of traffic, the vehicle automatically returns to its original driving mode.

Hyundai and Kia tested a vehicle equipped with the ICT Connected Shift System on a twisting road and found that the frequency of shifts while cornering was reduced by approximately 43% compared to vehicles without the system. In addition, the system reduced the amount of braking by approximately 11%, which minimizes wear and tear on the hydraulic brakes and driver fatigue associated with frequent braking and accelerating.

The system can work with autonomous driving systems as well, offering passengers a more stable driving experience by automatically responding to real-time road and traffic conditions.

Hyundai and Kia are planning to further develop the ICT Connected Shift System so it can communicate with traffic signals based on LTE or 5G communication. Using vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technology, the vehicle might downshift for example when approaching a red light.

Hyundai says that future developments might include optimizing the system to a driver's own preferences or driving habits.

Hyundai and Kia plan to add the technology to future production vehicles. 


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