KAIST’s Self-driving Vehicle Takes to the Road

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A self-driving vehicle developed by Professor Hyunchul Shim of the Department of Aerospace Engineering was given a temporary permit by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. For five years beginning January 19, EureCar Turbo can be tested in real-world traffic conditions.  

Before getting the permit, the team ensured that EureCar Turbo met all safe driving requirements. The various requirements include a driver priority mode, which automatically stops the self-driving function when a driver operates the steering wheel or brake; an automatic fault detection function, which alerts the driver upon detection of possible faults in major devices; and a forward collision prevention function, which automatically stops the vehicle to avoid collision. The car was equipped with a tachograph, a video recording system, and a self-driving vehicle test sign to alert other drivers. 

The awarding of a permit places greater emphasis on safety than technical feasibility or performance. “It wasn’t easy since we were more focused on technical aspects. Regardless, we saw it as an opportunity and managed to improve our self-driving car so that it satisfies both performance and safety standards,” said the professor. 

Before receiving the permit, the team ran tests on campus and in vacant lots. Professor Shim said, “Data acquired from these tests were highly limited, and we desperately needed real-world driving data. This permit opens up endless possibilities for our research, and takes us a step closer to 100% automated driving without human intervention.” 

The team plans to run driving tests to acquire real-world data from April to June, followed by self-driving tests on the main campus and Munji campus from June to September. More self-driving tests will be conducted from September to December on the Daejeon-Sejong highway. 

The team’s goal is to develop a Level 5 self-driving car, which gives full automation over all driving functions and travels to destinations without human drivers. The plan for 2018 includes highway entry/driving/exit tests, self-driving without pre-allocated maps, and self-driving shuttle bus tests between KAIST’s main campus, Munji campus, and Hwaam dormitory.

Professor Shim’s team has conducted research on self-driving vehicles since 2009. This began after winning the 1st Hyundai Motors Self-driving Vehicle Competition. The researchers were experienced in developing navigation and control systems for unmanned aircrafts, while Professor Shim had prior knowledge of self-driving vehicles.  

To date, the team has succeeded in developing five self-driving vehicles. They are currently conducting various tests such as self-driving on campus and high-speed self-driving on racecourses.

The SAE has identified five levels of self-driving. Level 3 is the highest among commercially available cars with self-driving technology. In the 2016 LA Auto Show, Hyundai unveiled the Ioniq with Level 4 automation, and Google showed a self-driving car with Level 5 automation in some sections. In October of last year, Tesla announced that its entire lineup will soon be equipped with Level 5 automation. 

Because self-driving vehicles rely on deep learning, Professor Shim expects further progress for self-driving technology with the increase in the number of vehicles equipped with automated driving systems.  


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