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Battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) are currently all the rage right now, but there is another contender for the auto market. It feels like we all just kind of forgot about self-driving vehicles and autonomous car technology. Almost a decade ago, it was all everyone could talk about, especially with the likes of Waymo making the rounds across the nation. It even launched a Waymo One robotaxi service, but it wasn’t the only company out there – a Chinese company, Plus, launched self-driving commercial trucks, and Domino’s has been introducing robotic pizza delivery services with the Nuro R2. The Kia Corp even launched the Niro Plus, and now its parent group, HMG, is launching another robotaxi, the first production-ready IONIQ 5, in conjunction with Motional, an American autonomous vehicle company.
It’s about time. The Niro Plus, the company’s first test purpose-built vehicle (PBV) sounded pretty amazing, but the production-ready taxi model was only getting a launch in Korea for Korean taxi drivers. The Niro Plus for personal use is still nowhere to be found, and the E-FOREST PBV production facility for Kia seems to be doing a great job of gathering dust. When the automaker first announced its Plan S business strategy, there were two paths – BEVs and PBVs. Kia has done wonders with the first path, launching the Kia EV6, Kia EV9 all-electric SUV, Kia EV5, and then the EV4 and EV3 concepts. What about the PBVs?
HMG may have a stronger hold on that front. After launching MoceanLab in 2019, the company was focused on providing personal mobility for all. Launching a carsharing pilot program known as Mocean Carshare in Los Angeles was just the first step. Working with third-party Aptiv, the first company to conduct a coast-to-coast drive in the United States in a self-driving vehicle, MoceanLab got its feet wet, but would need to go under extensive review by government officials before launching anything groundbreaking. We’re pretty sure the 2020 pandemic put that to rest.
So, here comes the IONIQ 5 robotaxi. Already cleared for takeoff, the IONIQ 5 robotaxi is one of the first SAE Level 4 autonomous vehicles (AVs) to be certified under the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). It’s a huge milestone for autonomous vehicle technology and a testament to the vehicle’s safety and reliability, as well as the sophistication of the autonomous technology operating it. A combination of advanced automation and real-time monitoring and data evaluation, the jointly developed all-electric IONIQ 5 robotaxi will be manufactured at the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Center Singapore (HMGICS).
“HMGICS is a vision for transportation innovation,” Iagnemma said. “We’re enormously proud to have the IONIQ 5 robotaxi manufactured at this facility and look forward to introducing the world to some of the first-ever FMVSS-certified autonomous vehicles. It’s through the strength of our collaboration with Hyundai that we were able to develop an industry-leading robotaxi that meets rigorous federal standards and is ready for mass commercialization.” - Motional President and CEO Karl Iagnemma
It isn’t clear if the mass commercialization of the IONIQ 5 robotaxi will be retail or as a commercial fleet for large companies. Regardless, commercial production is already underway, and the first models have already arrived at Motional's facility in the U.S. Autonomous cars aren’t going anywhere…well, not literally. They’ll definitely be on American streets sometime next year (2024).
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