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Future mobility

Hyundai Motor chairman sees future in self-driving, robot businesses

In his second US trip this year, Chung visited Motional and Boston Dynamics

By Jun 16, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun test drives an autonomous vehicle
Hyundai Motor Chairman Chung Euisun test drives an autonomous vehicle

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Euisun is in the United States seeking business opportunities in one of the South Korean automotive group’s most important overseas markets.

Chung, who left for the US on Sunday, has visited an autonomous vehicle joint venture and tested a vehicle under development, as the top Korean automaker is exploring new growth business in future mobility solutions, Hyundai Motor Co. said on Wednesday.

During his trip to the JV partner, Motional, in Boston, the chairman tested an autonomous IONIQ5 electric vehicle and discussed ways to expand the partnership with Motional’s executives, it said.

That marks his first visit to Motional since Hyundai Motor and the US mobility startup Aptiv formed a $4 billion joint venture in March 2020.

In February this year, Motional tested self-driving vehicles on public roads in Las Vegas, becoming one of the world's first companies to achieve Level 4 autonomy.

At Level 4, a vehicle can drive itself under limited conditions. At Level 5, a vehicle's fully automated driving features work under any conditions.

Motional aims to launch commercial robotaxi services on select US routes by 2023 in partnership with the ride-sharing platform Lyft.

Motional and Lyft began working together in 2018 on a robotaxi fleet pilot service in Las Vegas. They have already delivered over 100,000 rides with 98% of the passengers awarding the rides a five-star rating. Motional plans to expand the services to other major cities in the US.

Hyundai Motor's autonomous JV Motional, being tested on a public road
Hyundai Motor's autonomous JV Motional, being tested on a public road

ROBOTICS AT CENTER OF HYUNDAI’S FUTURE GROWTH

During his US trip, Chung also visited robotics startup Boston Dynamics to discuss the latest robotics technology trends with workers there.

In December 2020, Hyundai Motor Group acquired an 80% stake in Boston Dynamics, known for its maneuverable dog-like robot Spot, from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. for $880 million to leverage its robotics technology in other industrial areas.

Boston Dynamics is an American robotics company that was spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. SoftBank acquired the company from Google owner Alphabet in 2017 for an undisclosed sum.

Chairman Chung, who took the automotive group’s leadership in December last year, has publicly declared that robotics will account for 20% of its future business, with automobiles taking up half of its sales, followed by urban air mobility (UAM) at 30%.

Boston Dynamics' dog-like robot spot
Boston Dynamics' dog-like robot spot

Hyundai Motor said it plans to create synergy between robotics, autonomous vehicles, urban air mobility and smart factories to provide various mobility services both in the private and public sectors.

Industry officials said Chung's second US visit this year shows his commitment to fostering new growth drivers in the key market as the group announced plans to invest 8.1 trillion won ($7.2 billion) in the US by 2025 to expand its presence in EVs and the smart mobility solutions segment.

Write to Byung-Uk Do at dodo@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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