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Hyundai Ioniq: Affordable, Smart and Autonomous

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【Summary】Based on results of the test drive, which included a three-mile loop around the Las Vegas Convention Center, it’s very clear that the Ioniq is the real deal.

Original Michael Cheng    Dec 22, 2016 6:57 AM PT

The next four years for the self-driving car industry is a mystery. No one knows how much the vehicles will cost when they reach commercial markets. Furthermore, some automakers are concerned about the initial reaction of drivers and nearby pedestrians when surrounded by fleets of autonomous vehicles. For answers to these questions, we turn to Hyundai, a car manufacturer that is also a key player in the driverless sector.

The business released information about its pilot program in Las Vegas via the Hyundai Ioniq Autonomous Concept. When the auto brand first provided a preview of the car in November, it wasn't clear if it was a real, a working prototype or a graphic designer's rendition of what a driverless car from Hyundai could look like. Based on results of the test drive, which included a three-mile loop around the Las Vegas Convention Center, it's very clear that the Ioniq is the real deal.

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Autonomous and Affordable

One thing that's important to clarify is that the vehicle is fully capable of driving itself without a human driver. However, for the pilot, the presence of a developer was required to ensure proper operation and safety. At first glance, the vessel looks like every other car on the street today. That's because its cameras and sensors are hidden inside the car, while radar and LIDAR components are located on the grill and front bumpers of the unit.

The vehicle's LIDAR sensors are extremely unique, in a sense that they're affordable. With limited coverage of 130 degrees, compared to 360 degrees for most autonomous vehicles, the automaker was able to cut significant costs without compromising performance. In today's market, a laser diode LIDAR scanner without moving parts cost roughly $50 in volume. Previously, such components came with a hefty $70,000 price tag, which was eventually reduced to $8,000.    

Going back to the Ioniq's pilot program, the vehicle performed well during the tests – except for one incident. On the road, a car from the other lane veered into the lane the vehicle was on, causing the autonomous vessel to slow down and stop. If this happened under the control of a human driver, he or she would've simply slowed down and navigated around car. It was a minor flaw that may require a more seamless solution from Hyundai's team of engineers.

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Fuel Economy and Safety

Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the Ioniq are its sustainable features. The vehicle will be offered in three electrified drivetrains, i.e., hybrid, plug-in and fully electric. This would mean that the car is preparing to compete against Tesla, Chevrolet, Faraday Future and Toyota on a commercial level, with its biggest advantage being its affordable price tag and discreet autonomous design.

"The car has been recognized for segment-leading fuel economy, the highest levels of safety, and superior design," said the company.

"The IONIQ is an innovative concept in the market for green motoring, with these latest awards bringing further global recognition to Hyundai's forward-looking design philosophy," said Mike Song, Hyundai's head of operations for Africa and the Middle East.

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