A team of researchers at Seoul National University (SNU) will test-drive its autonomous car SNUver on busy, city center roads in Seoul as early as May. Previously, Korean developers were allowed to test their self-driving vehicles only on less crowded roads like highways due to higher risk of accidents on city streets constantly jammed with traffic.
SNU’s Intelligent Vehicle IT Research Center, led by Professor of Electrical Engineering Seo Seung-woo, said Wednesday it won a government approval to test -drive its driverless car SNUver on public roads. The team aims to test SNUver on streets at Yeouido, a busy financial district in western Seoul, in May at earliest as it has completed entire administrative process receiving a license and a plate from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) as of Tuesday.
Hyundai Motor Co. was the country’s first to receive the license to test its self-driving car on actual roads last March, followed by many others from academia and businesses. However, they were allowed to test their autonomous driving technology only on less busy roads such as highways to minimize the risk of accidents. Generally, it requires more advanced technology to enable a driverless vehicle to run on city streets crowded with other cars, people and buildings.
SNU team aspires to set a precedent to test out its driverless car for city driving in Korea, Professor Seo claimed. Hyundai Motor’s electric self-driving IONIQ concept car demonstrated its self-driving technology in downtown, Las Vegas, in January, but not yet at home.
The SNUver is currently at Level 3, which it still requires a human driver at the driver’s seat while the car takes control most of the time. The U.S. Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines six levels in automated driving from 0 to 5.
The SNUver runs autonomously helped by 64 Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) sensors that use laser beams to detect external environment of a self-driving car in three dimensions. It is considered the key technology for autonomous driving that needs to be aware of the all real-time events happening around the car within a radius of several hundreds of meters.
The SNU team is in talks with the MOLIT and the National Police Agency to set detailed plan for its test-run of SNUver around May at Yeouido. It will have a researcher behind the wheel in case of emergency.
By Hwang Soon-min
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