Hands-free semi makes first highway journey

Riley Riley

In a test that has far reaching implications, a 40 tonne semi-trailer has completed the first autonomous, highway journey in South Korea.

Hyundai’s Xcient truck drove about 40km on the highway between Uiwang and Incheon, carrying a large semi-trailer that simulated cargo transportation.

The Xcient has a maximum load capacity of 40 tonnes and is equipped with a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard Level 3 autonomous driving system.

This enables it to steer, accelerate or decelerate, and manoeuvre through traffic — all without human intervention.

A human driver was however on hand to take over manual control when required.

The Xcient is equipped with innovative features that enable it to maintain and change lanes in the natural flow of traffic, detect lane changes made by vehicles in front, navigate through tunnels, and perform a complete halt or accelerate according to road traffic.

For the demonstration the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) issued a temporary autonomous driving licence for the first time to a heavy-duty truck.

The introduction of autonomy to trade logistics is predicted to bring about ground-breaking change in the industry, which is ridding itself of its traditional industrial image by integrating innovative technology like autonomous navigation, IoT, and mobility technology to reform as a state of the art technology industry.

Autonomous trucks are able to maximise efficiency by maintaining the most efficient speed and velocity, reducing fuel costs, which make up one third of long distance delivery costs, and thereby lowering the vehicles carbon footprint.

“Hyundai Glovis’ success in utilising self-driving trucks as part of its delivery service proves that the self-driving technology is being utilised in actual logistics transport and can lead to mutual development,” Head of strategy & planning group at Hyundai, Sang-Sok Suh, said.

“The company will be a leader in adopting future mobility technology like autonomous driving for the trade logistics industry.”

In the distribution industry, when multiple trucks travel in a convoy all vehicles precisely follow the path of the leading vehicle.

Hyundai is currently investing in truck platooning technology that will enable this process to continue with autonomous vehicles, which it plans to complete by 2020s.

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