Korea unveils door-to-door self-driving taxi

A team from Seoul National University on Tuesday unveiled a door-to-door self-driving taxi for the first time in the nation.

Called Snuber 2, it is an upgraded version of an app-based self-driving taxi Snuber developed in November 2015.

The new autonomous car developed with Hyundai’s Genesis sedan is capable of tracking moving subjects, avoiding collision risk, driving on narrow roads and recognizing traffic lights and speed limit signs.

Sensors in Snuber 2 detect moving objects in green and yellow colors and fixed objects in white color. (Shin Ji-hye / The Korea Herald)

“The key difference of the newer Snuber is that it is able to drive on narrow roads and drop passengers off right in front of their residences,” said Seo Seung-woo, a professor of Seoul National University, who led the development of the self-driving car.

This is also a more advanced version of self-driving cars — being operated in the complex of Hyundai Motor’s Namyang Research Center — which are currently only capable of driving on wider roads.

“The new Snuber has improved to the extent that it recognizes things — people, roads, moving objects — nearly like how a human recognizes things,” he said.

This is because of the improved Light Detection and Ranging, or LiDAR, technologies, he said. LiDAR is a laser radar recognizing the surroundings of cars. It is one of the key technologies for autonomous cars.

Seo said Snuber 2 has already driven more than 10,000 kilometers on the campus without an accident during the last two years.

In May, the Land Ministry allowed self-driving cars to operate in two areas, Pangyo Techno Valley and Regulation-Free zone in Daegu. Currently, eight self-driving cars are being operated in the designated cities.

The number is expected to rise as the government recently revised the law to allow the pilot cars to travel to all places in the nation and prohibiting them only in exceptional cases.

Seoul National University will also operate its next self-driving model SNUVi in Seoul’s downtown area early next year.

Seo expects the SNUVi to gain more data by driving on highways and regular roads outside the campus, following the revision of the law.

Lee Chang-ki, senior deputy director at the Land Ministry’s Advanced Motor Vehicles Division said, “The government will work hard to boost the autonomous car industries by improving 3-D maps, GPS and other infrastructure,” following the test-driving event of the Snuber 2.

SOURCES – Korea Herald