Hyundai Tests First Autonomous Fuel Cell Cars

South Korean car maker Hyundai has successfully tested what it claims are the world’s first self-driven fuel cell electric vehicles.

A fleet of the cars completed a self-driven, high-speed, 190-kilometre test drive from Seoul to Pyeongchang. The firm said this is the first time that “level 4 autonomous driving has been achieved with fuel cell electric cars”.

Level four autonomy is when vehicles are able to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip – one stage short of human-level safe driving in all road conditions.

Hyundai believes that fuel-cell cars could result in more efficient journeys at speed on domestic roads. During the test drive, the driverless cars travelled at between 100 km/h and 110 km/h, which is the maximum speed on Korean motorways.

The company claimed that the cars demonstrated its three visions for the future of driving: connected mobility, clean mobility, and freedom in mobility.

The vehicles “moved in response to the natural flow of traffic” on the highway, “executed lane changes and overtaking manoeuvres” and “navigated toll gates” using a wireless expressway payment system, said Hyundai.

The cars use GPS technology and a range of other sensors to recognise other vehicles, make accurate judgements at junctions, navigate through toll gates, and identify different locations.

Jinwoo Lee, head of the intelligent safety technology centre at Hyundai, said the firm is working to “provide the highest level of safety combined with a high standard of convenience that our customers expect”.

Passengers also gain access to a system called “Home Connect”, which allows them to control IoT devices via their smartphones. Hyundai plans to release this system over the next few months.

Autonomous vehicles need a lot of power, and Hyundai believes that fuel cell technology is the answer. The firm said the cars can drive 600 km on a single charge.

Fuel cell technology produces electricity by causing a reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, with environmentally friendly emissions of warm air and water. However, the industrial production of hydrogen can be carbon intensive, despite being the most abundant chemical substance in the universe.

The combination of sustainable development, fuel efficiency, and minimum environmental impact will be critical to the future development of autonomous vehicles.

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