Hyundai Proves We’re Closer to Self-Driving Cars Than We Thought

We’ve often said that the road to fully autonomous driving is paved with small, incremental steps. In fact, if you’ve purchased a new car in the last few years the chances are you’ve got some form of semi-autonomous driving technology already in your car, be it adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning or emergency braking.

Those last two — the ones which hopefully stop you from having a major accident — aren’t probably what you’d think of as self-driving technology. Put them in the right environment with some tweaks, and you’d be forgiven for thinking your car is already safer than you behind the wheel.

In fact, if you take one look at Hyundai’s latest ad for its 2015 Genesis, entitled The Empty Car Convoy, (via Autoblogyou’d be easily forgiven for thinking Hyundai is bringing an autonomous car to market this year.

We all know it's a publicity stunt, but it's still pretty cool.

We all know it’s a publicity stunt, but it’s still pretty cool.

On a closed track, a team of stunt drivers driving multiple 2015 Hyundai Genesis Sedans engage both Hyundai’s Advanced Smart Cruise Control and a modified version of its Lane Keeping Assist System — a technology designed to gently help lane-drifting drivers back into the centre of their lane. One by one, they climb out of the sunroof and leap for safety onto a specially-prepared truck driving alongside the cars, while the lead driver calmly lets go of the steering wheel, puts on a blind fold, and crosses his arms.

Moments later, after illustrating the cars following the lead vehicle around a curved section of track, the truck — now at the head of the convoy — pulls an emergency stop manoeuvre. One by one, the cars all stop safely, using Hyundai’s Automatic Emergency Braking system to stop them from hitting the car in front.

No-one is hurt, no cars are damaged, and Hyundai’s goal — to demonstrate its latest safety technology — is complete.

A convoy of Hyundai Genesis Sedans head down the road. With no drivers.

A convoy of Hyundai Genesis Sedans head down the road. With no drivers.

Understandably, Hyundai goes to great lengths in its ad to reiterate that its cars were modified for the stunt (LKAS was modified to never turn off), driving aids are never a substitute for safe driving, and you should (obviously) never leap out of your moving car, especially if you’re the driver. Aside from those obvious observations however, the reason we’re excited about this ad is that it demonstrates how close we really are to self-driving technology without even thinking about it.

As Tesla CEO Elon Musk has noted numerous times in the past, teaching cars to take care of 95 per cent of our daily driving needs isn’t all that difficult. And with many cars today offering technology like adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, lane assist and even road sign detection, we’re closer to that goal that we may have thought.

Sadly however, the last five percent — teaching our cars to access situations, read the road ahead, and be prepared for every eventuality, is something that still has many years of development to undergo before we see an ad from Hyundai with truly self-driving, self-aware cars in it.

Still, it’s a neat ad, isn’t it?

Disclaimer: Transport Evolved would like to reiterate that for now, you still need to be sitting behind the wheel with your attention on the road ahead, even if you’ve got a smart(ish) car. Okay? 


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