Kia Confirms 'Hands-off' Self-Driving Tech in New Electric SUV

To date, only Mercedes and Honda have offered commercially available Level 3 systems in limited numbers

Graham Hope

March 31, 2023

3 Min Read

Kia has revealed more details on its new EV9 in a live-streamed world premiere.

The three-row electric SUV will be available to buy later this year, and amid a slew of high-tech features, the Korean automaker is promising it will introduce Level 3 autonomy via its Highway Drive Pilot (HDP) system.

Level 3 is defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers as conditional “hands-off” automation when the vehicle is in control in certain scenarios, but the human driver must be ready to intervene if required. To date, only Mercedes and Honda have offered commercially available Level 3 systems in limited numbers.

On the EV9, HDP is facilitated by 15 sensors, including two lidars, which scan for objects in a 360-degree field of view. Kia says the feature will be offered on GT-line models “in the future” and will enable the “driver to temporarily take a break from controlling the vehicle” but hasn’t gone beyond that in explaining its specific plans.

What that’s likely to mean, though, is that the EV9 will be able to drive itself on highways at certain speeds in markets where there is regulatory approval. Mercedes, for example, has permission to offer Level 3 tech in Germany and Nevada, while Kia’s home market – South Korea – has signaled its intent to allow L3 cars on the road imminently.

A suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) will also be available on the EV9. Among these is Remote Smart Parking Assist 2, which gives the EV9 the ability to park itself, even when the driver is not in the vehicle. Ultrasonic sensors are employed to detect obstacles, and the tech controls the accelerator, brakes and gearshift to maneuver the Kia into a space.

At higher speeds, the EV9 offers navigation-based Smart Cruise Control, while Highway Driving Assist 2 enables lane changes. 

The EV9’s status as the most digitally advanced Kia to date is bolstered by the access it will afford owners to the Kia Connect Store, which will offer a wide array of options. According to the company, this will enable customers to “keep their EV9 constantly updated by upgrading the digital features and services without any need to take the vehicle to a dealership.” Among the available extras are a new lighting pattern for the car’s dramatic digital grille and even an extra 100 Nm of torque for a more dynamic driving experience.

There’s also a first for Kia in the shape of what it’s calling the Digital Key 2, which uses Ultra-Wide Band technology to allow users to open and start the EV9 with their smartphone.

On the road, Kia is promising a potential range of up to 336 miles from the seven-seater, which will be available with rear-wheel-drive and dual-motor all-wheel-drive powertrains. It is set to make its physical debut at the Seoul Mobility Show in late March before arriving in showrooms in South Korea in the second quarter.

In the United States, an appearance is slated for the New York International Auto Show in April, before going on sale in the second half of 2023. Prices are yet to be confirmed, but it’s likely to start at just under the $60,000 mark.

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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