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Hyundai and its Autonomous Driving Partner Motional Reveal the Next-Generation IONIQ 5 Robotaxi

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【Summary】South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group and its autonomous driving joint venture Motional unveiled the next-generation IONIQ 5-based robotaxi, which the two companies plan to deploy in a commercial ride-hailing service. The robotaxi is based on the new all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5, which launched earlier this year. The vehicle was outfitted with technology that converted it into a SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle that can safely operate without a driver.

FutureCar Staff    Aug 31, 2021 2:00 PM PT
Hyundai and its Autonomous Driving Partner Motional Reveal the Next-Generation IONIQ 5 Robotaxi

South Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Group and its autonomous driving partner Motional unveiled the next-generation IONIQ 5-based robotaxi, which the two companies plan to deploy in a commercial ride-hailing service.

Like many other automakers including Ford Motor Co, General Motors and Toyota, that have formed partnerships with autonomous driving technology startups, Hyundai tapped Boston-based Motional to jumpstart its own self-driving vehicle development.

Motional is the joint venture of automaker Hyundai and technology company Aptiv. The two companies announced their intent to collaborate on the development of self-driving vehicles in Sept 2019. The venture was rebranded as Motional in Aug 2020. It's now tasked with developing autonomous driving technology for Hyundai.

The robotaxi is based on the new all-electric Hyundai IONIQ 5, which launched earlier this year. The vehicle was outfitted with technology that converted it into a SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicle that can safely operate without a driver, according to Motional.

The IONIQ 5 robotaxi is Motional's first commercial vehicle and marks a pivotal milestone in the company's roadmap. Motional plans to begin transporting public passengers in the IONIQ 5 robotaxi in 2023 through a partnership with ride-hailing company Lyft. 

The IONIQ 5 robotaxi stands out from the consumer model with specialized hardware visible on the exterior. The robotaxi is equipped with more than 30 sensors for autonomous driving, including a combination of cameras, radars, and lidar that provides complete 360-degree perception coverage. 

The camera's are capable of producing high-resolution images and the IONIQ 5's perception systems offers ultra-long range detection of objects for safe operation in many environments.

Motional's autonomous driving technology uses advanced machine learning systems which have been trained using real world datasets of actual driving conditions that would take decades for a human driver to encounter on the road. The data is used to train deep-learning algorithms to improve the overall performance of the autonomous driving system.

The IONIQ 5 robotaxi is built on Hyundai's new Electric Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which is a dedicated EV platform revealed in Dec 2020.

Hyundai is aiming to become one of the world's top three manufacturers of battery-powered vehicles. The company aims to sell 1 million electric vehicles each year to take a 10% share of global electric vehicle sales to become a leader in the market by 2025. 

The E-GMP also offers greater flexibility to Hyundai in designing new battery-powered models. Unlike traditional vehicle platforms built around a conventional internal combustion engine, Hyundai's new platform will offer more interior space for passengers or cargo since the electric motors and batteries take up much less space than a conventional gas-powered vehicle.

With the battery pack mounted beneath the floor, the E-GMP creates a flat floor for the cabin, allowing Hyundai engineers greater flexibility in designing an EV's interior space. The flat floor offers more legroom for passengers as well as more arrangement options for the front and rear seats, making the IONIQ 5 a suitable vehicle for use in a commercial ride-hailing service.

The interior will also feature a suite of rider-focused interfaces to allow passengers to interact with the vehicle during their ride, including being able to direct the robotaxi to make an extra stop along the route. Hyundai said the passenger experience will set a new standard for driverless ride-hailing. 

Unlike one of Hyundai regular production vehicles that's designed for a driver, the IONIQ 5 was built from the ground-up to be fully autonomous.

Hyundai and Motional worked closely together throughout the development cycle, with each providing their own expertise. For the IONIQ 5, Motional provided the driverless technology while Hyundai contributed its R&D capabilities and global vehicle manufacturing experience.

Hyundai's E-GMP also offers for ultra-fast charging and a long range, enabling its use as part of a commercial robotaxi fleet. The IONIQ 5 robotaxi also comes with Hyundai's advanced safety features.

"This robotaxi represents Motional's vision of a driverless future becoming a reality," said Motional President and CEO Karl Iagnemma. "Through our strategic partnership with Hyundai Motor Group and Aptiv, we have unparalleled automotive and software expertise across our entire vehicle development process. This deep collaboration enables us to manufacture a robotaxi that's both highly safe and reliable, and is cost-n continues optimized for global production. We're focused on mass commercialization, and the IONIQ 5 robotaxi is built for that purpose."

For added safety, the IONIQ 5 robotaxi is equipped with redundant systems to ensure that safe operation continues if there is ever a single point failure in the vehicle's hardware or software stack. The redundant systems include navigation, steering, braking, and power, for a safe and smooth ride every time, according to Motional.

The IONIQ 5 will also be backed by a remote teleoperation service that allows humans to take control of the vehicle remotely and guide it out of a jam, such as a closed lane of stalled vehicle blocking the road.

Using a cellular connection to the IONIQ 5, a Motional remote operator could instantly connect to the vehicle as if they were sitting behind the wheel and guide it through any unexpected situations.

"Hyundai Motor has evolved its IONIQ 5, a battery electric vehicle built on its EV-dedicated platform, into a platform for fully autonomous vehicles," said Woongjun Jang, Head of the Autonomous Driving Center at Hyundai Motor Group. "For the IONIQ 5-based robotaxi, we have applied various redundancy systems, in addition to a suite of essential technologies to ensure safety and convenience of the passengers. By successfully integrating the Group's IONIQ 5 robotaxi with Motional's autonomous driving technology, we are proud to announce that we have achieved another important milestone on the road to the commercialization of our robotaxi." 

Motional's team has decades of expertise in driverless technology. It has been testing the self-driving service on the Lyft network in Las Vegas. 

Motional plans to enter the next phase of its commercial roadmap when it launches a fully driverless service in 2023 on the Lyft network. The IONIQ 5 robotaxis will eventually be deployed in multiple U.S. markets and offered on Lyft's ride-hailing network.

Hyundai is not the automaker in the race to deploy commercial robotaxis. Alphabet's self-driving arm Waymo, which spun out of Google self-driving car project, is planning to deploy thousands of them in cities across the U.S. The company is testing its autonomous ride-hailing service called Waymo One in the Phoenix Metro Area and in San Francisco.

GM's autonomous driving division Cruise is also planning to launch a robotaxi service in San Francisco where Cruise is based using a fleet of self-driving Chevy Bolt EVs outfitted by Cruise for autonomous driving. GM's rival Ford, is also working with its autonomous driving partner Argo AI on the technology.

Motional and Hyundai Motor Group will debut the IONIQ 5 robotaxi for the first time at IAA Mobility in Munich, Sept 7-12. 


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