A team at the Seoul National University have been building their self-driving car cleverly named SNUber for the past couple of years. While it’s been available for use on campus via an app, the team is ready to test the outside terrain, thanks to Korea recently opening downtown roads to self-driving cars.
In a ride I had with two engineers, the car safely maneuvered through traffic on the Seoul campus, stopping for pedestrians, slowing traffic and oncoming buses that poked into its lane.
It was also able to overtake obstacles like double-parked cars and made safe left and right turns perhaps more passively than the average driver in safety-first, grandma-style fashion, as Seo Seung-woo, lead professor on the project, put it.
Seo’s team of around 20 engineers is aiming for driverless technology regarded as full autonomy, which involves ferrying a passenger from door-to-door on regular roads. They expect the tech will be ready for primetime by 2025.
For now, the team has much to tackle. Because autonomous vehicles are uncharted ground in South Korea, the university’s Vehicle Intelligence Lab must be an all-round map-making, tech-developing, car-souping team.
They’ve tested the vehicles in snow and rain too, and is seeking more data for nighttime driving and more severe driving conditions.
Seo said the lab expects its research to allow it to eventually step into the commercial realm as a technology supplier for carmakers.
What the car sees
Economically and socially, there is so much evidence of why people will pursue and why people want autonomous driving in the future, said Seo.
Elaine Ramirez is a tech correspondent based in South Korea.