One of the most exciting automotive presentations at 2016 CES was from Kia Motors. Team Kia brought a well thought out plan to the show, including some big wins and a few surprising gaps — or business opportunities that Kia did not seem interested in.
First, Kia has plans for autonomous driving — big plans. Autonomous driving at Kia starts with many of the active safety features other manufacturers are implementing and builds from there. All of these functions are bundled under a single sub-brand within Kia called Drive Wise. This was my first surprise — Kia is looking to productize this technology both inside of Kia and outside — by selling and licensing the tech to outside companies.
That is a bold move forward in the self-driving cars market, which was painted in full motion in an introductory video shared during the press conference at CES. I’ve included it at the bottom for your own taste of the Kia vision, and it’s actually pretty exciting. Maybe it’s just because they are showing us what autonomous driving cars bring to the table, or maybe it is their holistic vision for this… but either way, I’m digging it.
The Kia vision starts with the “Connected Car Trilogy” which consists of Smart Mobility, Traditional Telematics, and Smart Safety. Nothing breakthrough about this — in fact, these are the three pillars of any autonomous vehicle program.
One of the big acronyms everyone was throwing around at CES as part of paving the road to autonomous vehicles was ADAS — Advanced Driving Assistance System — which is essentially the building blocks of hardware and software logic that comprise autonomous driving features. Specifically, this refers to the optics, LiDAR, Navigation, GPS, and laser scanners, and how they are all tied together via logic to give the car eyes.
The specific implementations of these components vary significantly amongst automakers. Though, with legislation imminent, it will be interesting to see if we get more standardization in hardware and, more importantly, the logic dictating what actions the car will take in different circumstances.
Kia presented a timeline for the migration to autonomous driving that provides some good insight into the different areas of focus for the automaker. The downside of a chart like this is that it does not provide visibility into the penetration of these technologies into the full roster of vehicles, but it is interesting to see the macro view.
Looking specifically at the top line of the timeline, Kia expects to be rolling out vehicles with basic (aka “improved”) ADAS features in 2016, with features improving from there. The ADAS timeline is not as aggressive as many other manufacturers, with partially automated features rolling out in 2020 that quite a few automakers have had in production cars for years now.
With many component manufacturers such as Mobileye and Valeo having already developed and now selling active safety systems and components which can then be integrated into vehicles at various levels, is the timeline aggressive enough? Time will tell, but the competition is definitely heating up.
Kia presented a compelling vision for what a future with autonomous driving technology looks and feels like with timelines, actions and brands built up to support it. The decision to intentionally pursue a full suite of autonomous driving features is timely but leaves consumers wondering if the features will arrive before they have been commoditized.
On the other hand, delivering quality vehicles at a great value has shaped up to be the promise of the new Kia and it feels like the new Drive Wise initiative is just the next logical step in that direction. Not leading the pack, but a solid contender for the average consumer.
The use cases for Drive Wise solutions depicted in the video below are admittedly romantic but do illustrate several real life situations and applications for the technology Kia is working on. For the official details, check out the press release.
Drive Wise Logo and Video Credit: Kia Motors
All Other Images Credit: Kyle Field
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