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Naver Unveils Self-driving Car at Seoul Motor Show

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【Summary】The business is the nation’s first information and communications technology (ICT) company to enter the nascent sector. In the region, it is competing with other Korea-based automakers with international reach, such as Hyundai and Kia Motors.

Michael Cheng    Apr 04, 2017 6:30 AM PT
Naver Unveils Self-driving Car at Seoul Motor Show

Korea's self-driving industry is heating up. Naver, the country's leading internet search and gaming portal, revealed a driverless car at the Seoul Motor Show. The business is the nation's first information and communications technology (ICT) company to enter the nascent sector. In the region, it is competing with other Korea-based automakers with international reach, such as Hyundai and Kia Motors.

During the event, Naver representatives also took the time to provide consumers with information about its strategy for testing and deployment. So far, the brand is focusing on rigorous research and development projects associated with its driverless ambitions. According to Song Chang-hyun, CTO of Naver and chief executive of Naver Labs, the company is looking into autonomous mobility solutions using artificial intelligence and robots.

"Based on the ambient intelligence technology for space and mobility, we will create the world that can help human and society focus on more important thing in life rather than being fettered by tools," explained Song.

Naver's Driverless Vehicle

Naver's self-driving car is capable of operating autonomously at SAE-L3. This refers to "conditional automation," wherein a human driver is required to step in for fallback performance or complex driving maneuvers. Researchers expect to reach SAE-L4 by next year. Testing for its driverless platform is currently ongoing under Naver Labs, the company's research and development subsidiary. Surprisingly, like other automakers in the field, it also holds licensing required to test vehicles on city roads, which was granted by the government.

To clarify, Naver's driverless vessel wasn't fully engineered by the internet giant. Scientists at Naver Labs modified a Toyota Prius with self-driving capabilities, along with a next-generation infotainment system. The latter component offers music, movies and games for passengers. Furthermore, the platform doubles as a GPS navigator and smartphone.

3D Mapping Robot

At the Seoul Motor Show, Naver showcased another project that it plans to use with the new self-driving vehicle. Called M1, the company unveiled a 3D mapping robot that details interior spaces. During a live demonstration at the conference, M1 produced a 3D map of its surroundings just by circling around the area. Using a powerful camera and a robust laser scanner, the robot scans the environment in real-time, offering accurate readings where GPS systems are unreliable, due to infrastructure-related constraints.

Naver stressed that M1 is designed for interior spaces. For now, it is unclear how the brand will leverage and monetize on this technology, which is connected to its acquisition of Epipolar – a local business responsible for launching a 3D mapping platform using WebGL. The business clarified that applications for the 3D mapping bot includes real estate, gaming and advertisement. Data to come out of M1 may be used to offer AI-powered maps of airports and train stations.

"What we're trying to do is create value for consumers by offering a more intelligent service for the living environment," said Song. "In the end, the M1 will establish the grounds for our next generation service indoor, while the self-driving vehicle does the same for the outside world."

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