As cars become electrified and connected, another debate arises. Should we continue to have them when vehicles can reliably drive autonomously at level 5? Some visions of the future of the smart city envision public transportation and self-driving taxi services completely taking over private car ownership. But when I spoke with Hyundai Motor Group (HMG) president and chief innovation officer Youngcho Chi, he still thinks there will be a lot of people with cars in the coming years.
Chi presented HMG’s Smart City Vision 2022. At the World Cities Summit in Singapore. “The idea was to revitalize cities by redefining urban boundaries,” says Chi. “We imagine a city where there is a person. It coexists with nature and embraces the technology of the future. It is a hexagonal city with a human center, a surface layer and an underground space where functions are concentrated. Road infrastructure connects the city through autonomous mobility and logistics. The city is further empowered by advanced urban air mobility and hydrogen fuel cell generators, making it not only well connected, but also more sustainable.
HMG is prototyping some of these ideas in Singapore, in the island nation’s Jurong region. “We’re working on a transportation model to predict demand over the next 10 to 15 years, including mobility options that don’t currently exist, such as robotaxis and other forms of personal mobility,” says Chi. “After this pilot project, we hope to collaborate on a broader topic, such as recommendations for autonomous vehicle infrastructure, as well as next-generation logistics infrastructure.” We believe in universal mobility where everyone has equal and easy access to transportation.
Therefore, the concept also includes a lot of thought about accessibility, including autonomous wheelchairs to help transport people with disabilities. From these descriptions, it appears that HMG’s Smart City vision does not include the personal transportation model we have become accustomed to over the past 100 years. But Chi points out that this is not the case. Instead, he believes that mobility needs more diverse solutions than before: “We think there is a place for fuel cell vehicles, but it will be more for longer distances, because they also have shorter refueling times than electric cars, so they are ideal for carrying goods.” . , transports heavy goods by truck. We believe that in the future, we will have a mix of electric vehicles and fuel cell electric vehicles in our cities to meet various mobility needs.
However, while autonomy is rapidly evolving, Level 5 self-driving is still the way of the future. “A car without a steering wheel and pedals will be another 10 or 20 years away,” says Chi. “But level 4 is ready. And we are at a stage where we believe that use cases as a service and its role in a smart city are important. This is essential for next-generation logistics such as robotic delivery.
To help with these plans, HMG now has an eVTOL subsidiary, Supernal, which is involved in electric air transport. in 2021 the company also acquired Boston Dynamics, the company behind the infamous robot dog Spot, popularized in many videos. HMG is also working with US company Motional to develop self-driving capabilities. Motion is currently testing Level 4 in Las Vegas. “Our cars already have level two or three capabilities,” says Chi.
These features will help change the way people travel in cities. “We believe the shift away from vehicle ownership is an inevitable trend,” says Chi. “However, private car ownership itself will not disappear. It’s hard not to be affected by measures taken by different governments to limit car ownership and how cities are designed with minimum parking spaces. For this reason, we have expanded our horizons from just selling cars to providing transport as a service and becoming a provider of mobility solutions, and we also offer more than just vehicles. We are expanding from land to air mobility.
Nevertheless, Hyundai is unlikely to welcome the demise of the passenger car market anytime soon. After all, in 2021 HMG ranked fourth in the world in terms of sales volume for all its brands (including Kia and Genesis and Hyundai), ahead of General Motors. HMG was also fifth in the world in pure electric car sales, with 5% of the market. Popular launches such as the IONIQ 5, the Kia EV6 and the upcoming IONIQ 6 could help HMG climb even further up the electric car rankings and position the company for the transition to electric mobility.
“The total number of cars sold worldwide may continue to decline, as has been demonstrated in the past few years due to the rise of car sharing and car delivery companies,” says Chi. “But people love to drive, especially those who have been driving for ten, 20, 30 years. There is a lot of joy in having a custom car in a different color and with different wheels. Many people will continue to buy cars.