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Future mobility

Hyundai Motor invests in Clearpath Robotics in push for future mobility

By Mar 17, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Clearpath’s unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), Jackal
Clearpath’s unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), Jackal

Hyundai Motor Co. has invested $5 million in Clearpath Robotics Inc., a Canada-based robotics startup, in a stepped-up push to transform into a comprehensive provider of future mobility.

According to its 2020 business report filed with the Financial Supervisory Service on Tuesday, the top South Korean automaker made the investment in December of 2020.

Headquartered in Waterloo Region, Canada, Clearpath was founded in 2009 to streamline field robotics research for universities and private companies, but the company has since expanded to manufacturing self-driving vehicles for industrial use and developing robotics software.

Clearpath’s products include its unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) Jackal and OTTO 1500, a heavy-duty autonomous mobile robot that can move pallets, racks and other large payloads through dynamic and human-dense environments.

Among the robotics startup’s clients are General Electric and John Deere.

In June of 2020, Clearpath joined hands with Microsoft to develop a robotics operating system (ROS) that runs on Windows 10. ROS is an open-source robotics middleware usually based on the Linux system.

Boston Dynamics' robot Spot
Boston Dynamics' robot Spot

SYNERGY WITH BOSTON DYNAMICS

Industry officials say Hyundai’s latest investment in Clearpath Robotics will create synergy with Boston Dynamics Inc., a US robotics firm the automotive group acquired last year.

Hyundai purchased 80% of Boston Dynamics in December for slightly less than 1 trillion won ($921 million) from Softbank Group in a bid to accelerate the automaker’s push into the future mobility market.

The acquisition was Group Chairman Chung Euisun’s first major buyout deal since he assumed the chairmanship in October.

Boston Dynamics is known for its four-legged robot Spot that can trot, climb stairs and open doors. The company has also introduced the humanoid robot Atlas and the bird-like mobile robot Handle designed for logistics services.

Jointly with Boston Dynamics, Clearpath has already built a logistics automation system through its logistics robotics affiliate OTTO Motors.

Graphics by Jerry Lee
Graphics by Jerry Lee

Chung has said that robotics will account for 20% of Hyundai’s future business, with automobiles taking up half of its sales, followed by urban air mobility (UAM) at 30%, signaling its intent to pursue additional acquisitions of mobility-related companies.

During a town hall meeting with Hyundai employees on Tuesday, Chung said robots, instead of smartphones and other electronic devices, will accompany people wherever they go in the near future.

Hyundai said in December that it expects the global robotics market to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 32% to $177.2 billion by 2025 from $24.5 billion in 2017.

Global carmakers, auto parts makers and logistics companies, including Toyota, Ford and Bosch, have been jumping into the robotics technology market through acquisitions or joint research.

Write to Sun A Lee at suna@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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