January 9, 2023
Kia’s first car with Level 3 self-driving capability will be launched in 2023.
The breakthrough was announced by the executive chair of parent company Hyundai Motor Group Euisun Chung at a meeting at the Namyang R&D Center in South Korea, and the model in question will be the new EV9 SUV.
Level 3 is defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers as automated driving under certain conditions, although human drivers must be prepared to take control when required.
“In autonomous driving technology, we are planning to launch models capable of autonomous driving Level 3 on highways in Korea,” said Chung.
It was subsequently clarified that the first two models to benefit from the Level 3 tech that the Group calls Highway Driving Pilot (HDP) will be the Kia EV9 and the G90 sedan from luxury brand Genesis.
The EV9 is an electric SUV that was first revealed in concept form at the Los Angeles Auto Show in 2021 and will go on sale in production guise in selected global markets, including the United States, over the next 12 months. Offering three rows of seating, it will be positioned as a more affordable alternative to the Tesla Model X and is based on the same platform as the Kia EV6 and Hyundai IONIQ 5, both already available in the U.S.
But the EV9’s Level 3 functionality will probably be restricted to Kia’s home market of South Korea initially. Regulatory approval for Level 3 production cars has been limited to date, with only Mercedes and Honda gaining permission to sell vehicles with the tech. Mercedes launched the Level 3 Drive Pilot on S-Class and EQS models in Germany last year, while Honda received permission to offer a limited number of Level 3 Legends in Japan in 2021.
The South Korean government published a road map for the introduction of autonomous vehicles last year that made clear it aimed to be the third country in the world to approve Level 3 private cars in 2023.
Beyond the EV9 news, Chung added: “We’re also planning to commercialize robotaxis with autonomous driving Level 4 in North America.” This alludes to the Group’s partnership with
Chung also pledged to expand Kia’s Purpose-Built Vehicle (PBV) range in 2023. PBVs are electric machines that can come in all sizes – such as unmanned micro vehicles for food deliveries or full-size shuttles – and are designed for specific uses. Ultimately the firm’s plan is for them to offer autonomous functionality.
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