Hyundai Motor to run robo taxi pilot in 2021 in Korea

By Cho Chung-un
  • Published : Jan 2, 2019 - 16:43
  • Updated : Jan 2, 2019 - 16:43

South Korean auto giant Hyundai Motor will start pilot operation of robo cabs here in 2021, part of a drive to become a smart mobility service provider, its chief said Wednesday.

In a noticeable change for the 51-year-old car manufacturer, the conglomerate’s Executive Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun said he would seek partnership with global leading companies to develop eco-friendly robo taxis that were both “safe and innovative.”

Hyundai Motor Group Executive Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun addresses the carmaker's new year plan in Seoul on Wednesday. (Hyundai Motor)

Robo taxis, or robo cabs, are self-driving or driverless taxis that use level four or five autonomous cars -- those capable of completing journeys without any human intervention -- operated on a ride hailing service. The carmaker will deploy its fuel cell electric vehicle Nexo and compact SUV Kona electric for driverless taxi service in Sejong, a city 120 kilometers south of Seoul that is home to major government offices, the company said.
Though Chung didn’t specifically name the potential partners for its robo taxi project, Hyundai has been working with US startup Aurora which develops sensors and software for autonomous vehicles. The two plan to commercialize a level-four self-driving system by 2021.

Tech companies and carmakers have been seeking ways of commercializing robo taxi businesses in recent years. The robo taxi market is expected to be worth $1.5 trillion by 2030, according to McKinsey. Some view that they will become a bigger top-line business than car manufacturing.

Hyundai Motor will established an “exclusive mobility service business model” and seek new business opportunities globally by combining its manufacturing capability and service-oriented businesses, he said.

The company will also unveil a total of 13 new vehicles this year, including an SUV entry model, new Genesis G80 and GV80, the first SUV for Genesis. Targeting the global market, Hyundai’s sister company Kia will introduce Telluride, a large SUV and new Soul.

The carmaker will lead electrification of vehicles by introducing 44 green cars powered by batteries by 2025 while setting the sales target of green cars at 1.67 million units a year. The heir to the nation’s second-largest conglomerate said the group will invest 8 trillion won by 2030 to expand the sale of FCEVs nationwide and technologically contribute in creating an eco-system for hydrogen energy.

Chung was making his first official New Year’s plan as de facto head of the world’s fifth-largest carmaker. His father, Chairman Chung Mong-koo, has been keeping distance from the management in recent years, in apparent move to pass the baton to his only son.

The vice chairman also urged the company to transform work culture and improve creativity, saying that the company has to seek new growth engines for the “fourth industrial revolution.”

Earlier in the day, Hyundai and Kia said in a statement that they have set the annual target of a combined 7.6 million units this year, 50,000 more than last year.

By Cho Chung-un (