Hyundai aims to have its self-driving cars on the road by 2021 [Update]


Hyundai has been working on automated cars fairly quietly for a couple of years, having first revealed a prototype of its hybrid Ioniq line in 2016. 

Now, though, we might be seeing significantly more progress from the company, as it just announced a partnership with autonomous vehicle company Aurora. If all goes well, the pair will get self-driving Hyundai cars on the road by 2021. (Update: Volkswagen is also working with Aurora to get autonomous cars on the road by 2021)

The idea is that Hyundai will include Aurora's technology in its upcoming cars, leading to "Level 4" automation as described by SAE International, a global organization that sets standards for transport industries. 

In SAE's terms, Level 4 automation means the car can handle most "dynamic driving tasks" on its own, but may need occasional driver intervention in the case of extremes such as poor weather.

Hyundai also said that it will show off a new hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicle at CES 2018 next week, and later in the year Hyundai and Aurora will use this as the first model for their partnership. 

According to Hyundai, the new vehicle will be able to provide "a stable electric power supply without concerns about driving range." If it performs as well as it sounds, it could turn out to be a major step forward in the adoption of automated electric cars.

Headin' to the slopes

As for Aurora, it's a bit of a mystery, although we know it was founded by veterans from Google, Uber and Tesla. Last August, Fortune reported that Aurora became the 37th company to receive a permit for testing autonomous vehicles on the streets of California. At the time, the company had not yet begun testing on public roads.

The idea behind Aurora, though, is to create what it calls a "full-stack solution" for automation, meaning that it will work with manufacturers such as Hyundai to create all of the sensors, software and data services needed to power the company's vehicles toward Level 4 automation. In time, Aurora hopes to allow for Level 5 automation, which is full automation without the need for human intervention.

As Digital Trends reported last year, Hyundai had already announced that it was working with the South Korea government to showcase its self-driving cars with shuttles at February's upcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. That'll be especially interesting to watch since conditions will be both snowy and hilly, both of which currently pose some challenges for self-driving vehicles.

Hyundai mentioned that tests with Aurora would not start until "later this year," and the company confirmed to us the company's technology won't be used in the cars featured in PyeongChang next month.