Hyundai is a motor manufacturer that’s certainly not afraid to try something new, whether it’s dipping its toe into a new segment of the market or trying out some cutting-edge new technology.
Well, now the South Korean automaker has just achieved a world-first by driving a fleet of level 4 autonomous vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells completely autonomously on a 118-mile journey from Seoul to Pyeongchang.
Until this groundbreaking feat was achieved, driverless vehicles had only been demonstrated at limited speed on specially selected sections of South Korea’s roads. This event was therefore the first time driverless vehicles had operated on public roads at speeds of up to 110 km/h, which is the maximum speed the law allows on Korean highways.
Although Hyundai has been producing hydrogen fuel cell versions of the Tucson for some years now, the three vehicles used to achieve this world-first were based on the NEXO, which is the manufacturer’s next-generation fuel cell model that’s going to be released in its home market next month. Each of the three used were equipped with level 4 driverless technology and also feature the latest 5G network connectivity.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology does seem to have been put on something of a back burner by the auto industry in recent times as the main focus has shifted heavily towards all-electric and hybrid technology. However, hydrogen fuel cells offer a number of advantages over all-electric vehicles, especially when it comes to driverless technology.
The amount of data being processed by the vehicle during autonomous driving uses a considerable amount of power, which inevitably impacts adversely on the range of an EV on a single charge. Fuel cells produce enough electricity to cope with such demands as well as driving the vehicle, and it only takes around five minutes to refill a fuel cell vehicle with hydrogen.
The NEXO has a target range on a single fill of hydrogen of 500 miles, it boasts a world-class efficiency of some 60 percent, durability that’s equivalent to a combustion-engine powered vehicle, and a total load space of 839 liters.