Hyundai Reveals Self-Driving Fuel Cell Truck

Hyundai Motor, Plus team with Plus for the first-ever self-driving Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell electric truck in the U.S.

Graham Hope

May 24, 2024

2 Min Read
Hyundai's Fuel Cell Truck

The latest innovative addition to the growing ranks of autonomous trucks has come courtesy of South Korean giant Hyundai Motor.

It has paired with Silicon Valley AI company Plus to unveil the first-ever self-driving Class 8 hydrogen fuel cell electric truck in the United States.

The autonomous XCIENT Fuel Cell Truck was showcased at the ACT (Advanced Clean Transportation) Expo in Las Vegas – which also saw the debut of another self-driving truck, the VNL Autonomous developed by Volvo and Aurora Innovation, earlier this week. 

What marks the XCIENT out is its use of fuel cell tech, underlining the commitment Hyundai made to broaden the use of hydrogen at this year’s CES as part of its sustainability program.

Fuel cell vehicles are powered by compressed hydrogen gas that feeds into a fuel cell stack which turns the chemical energy into electrical energy. This electricity then powers a vehicle’s electric motors, resulting in zero emissions.

The standard, non-autonomous version of the XCIENT has been around since 2020, and has been deployed in commercial operations in eight countries worldwide, establishing, according to Hyundai “a successful track record of reliability.”

The new variant, seen in Vegas, is equipped with Plus’s SuperDrive autonomous driving system, which is rated as providing Level 4 automation, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers. This means the truck can drive itself, with no human input, in specific scenarios and locations.

SuperDrive uses a combination of sensors, including lidar, radar and cameras, to provide perception, planning, prediction and self-driving capability.

And this functionality in the XCIENT is already being put to the test in the U.S., albeit with a safety driver – the first time a Level 4 fuel cell Class 8 truck has been assessed in the country.

Although the vehicle is being billed as a “demonstration truck,” Hyundai has serious plans to develop autonomous fuel cell solutions.

“By adding autonomous capabilities to our world’s first mass-produced hydrogen-powered XCIENT Fuel Cell truck, Hyundai is looking forward to providing fleets and vehicle operators additional solutions that enhance road safety and freight efficiencies thanks to Plus’s industry-leading autonomous driving technology,” said Martin Zeilinger, Hyundai executive vice president.

Co-founder Shawn Kerrigan added: “A decarbonized future with autonomous hydrogen fuel cell electric trucks that also improve safety and efficiency is one that Plus is proud to support with our cutting-edge autonomous driving technology.” 

As well as the Hyundai/Plus collaboration and the Volvo/Aurora effort, May has also seen the unveiling of the autonomous Freightliner eCascadia technology demonstrator from Daimler Truck and Torc Robotics.

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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