LOS ANGELES, Jan. 7, 2016 – At #CES2016, Kia boldly announced its Soul EV is about to go fully self-driving on Nevada’s public roads. Does this really mean you can soon sit in this zero emissions, all-electric wundercar and “drive” with no hands and feet?
Yes and no.
Now rebranded as “Drive Wise,” Kia’s current “advanced driver assistance systems” (ADAS) is actually a group of “six key technologies.” ADAS does not equal driving without your hands on the wheels and feet on the pedals, but they are the baby steps towards full autonomy.
Here is how Kia is paving the way towards real driving autonomy:
—Highway Autonomous Driving (HAD): You really can take your foot off the acceleration and braking pedals with HAD. Using “light detection and range radar,” HAD keeps your car in your lane or automatically switches lanes depending on traffic.
—Urban Autonomous Driving (UAD): Foot-free city driving is possible as UAD recognizes everything from pedestrians to bicycles to road signs to drive your car.
—Preceding Vehicle Following (PVF): No more lane markings because of construction, weather or other unforeseen event? PVF switches from tracking lane markings to the speed of the cars in front and back.
—Emergency Stop System (ESS): Sleepy? ESS senses the position of the driver’s face and detects if the driver is about to fall asleep or has actually fallen asleep. The car then finds a side lane and parks for you.
—Traffic Jam Assist (TJA): Driving in heavy congestion can be dangerous as well as nerve wracking. TJA uses sensors to not only maintain distance between vehicles, but helps you gain more ground by identifying open lanes.
—Autonomous Valet Parking (AVP): Along with Kia’s current “smart parking assist” tech, AVP will let drivers identify open parking spaces sized just right for your car. Then, the driver exits the car while the car parks itself. Kia’s smartphone parking app even helps you locate your parked car when it’s time to go.
Next, Kia demonstrated how its ADAS technologies are already built into its new vehicles, especially its 2016 Kia Sportage, including these “active safety systems”: autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, parking assist, lane keep assist, blind spot detection, forward collision warning, “bending” lights and high-beam assist.
Altogether, these advanced safety technologies certainly help the car drive more safely without the driver’s knowing it and help drivers make better split-second decisions and aid in all parking situations.
However, Kia says full autonomous driving will take up to a decade to fully develop into a car you can sit inside and never touch the wheel. In this driverless world, you really will be able to work and read while the car drives you around.
Kia says its Soul EV autonomous test cars were recently granted a “special license” to test its futuristic vehicle on public roads. This real-world test ground will be needed as Kia claims it will launch a partially-autonomous vehicle by 2020 and a fully self-driving car by 2030. Kia is calling its new autonomous software “vehicles to everything” or V2X because not only will the car drive itself, but it will “talk” to other cars on the road.
Although 2030 is a 14 years away, that’s not a lot of time in car years. It takes decades to develop new car tech because of heavy government regulation and testing procedures. But autonomous driving seems to be on its way not only with Kia, but all other car manufacturers making this move towards self-driving vehicles. The days of stressful, time-sucking driving may already in our rear view mirror.
Will Kia and other car manufacturers’ fully autonomous vehicles make driving obsolete in less than two decades? With current technology such as Kia’s ADAS already built into cars, it seems like the beginning of this total transportation transformation is already here.