Autonomous car takes president out for a spin

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Autonomous car takes president out for a spin


President Moon Jae-in listens to Lee Jin-woo, vice president of the Hyundai Motor Intelligent Safety Technology Center, explain the next generation fuel cell vehicle Nexo before a test-drive held Friday in Seoul. [YONHAP]

President Moon Jae-in test-drove Hyundai Motor’s first fuel cell-powered self-driving car - the Nexo - on Friday, giving a free advertisement for the vehicle’s capabilities and safety.

Moon started his ride at roughly 10 a.m. in the front passenger seat and enjoyed a 15 minute ride on the Gyeongbu Expressway, which connects Seoul with Busan, traveling about 7 kilometers (4.3 miles).

The test-drive came a day after Moon visited a factory of solar panel maker Hanwha Q Cells located in Jincheon, North Chungcheong. Moon praised the company’s labor policies such as reducing working hours, which his administration is promoting.

On Friday’s visit to the country’s largest automaker, Moon checked on the latest developments in the company’s next-generation fuel cell and other technologies. Self-driving cars and fuel cell-powered cars have been spotlighted as key technologies of the so-called fourth industrial revolution, which is often talked up by the administration.

“I was concerned about the safety of the vehicle,” Moon said, adding that he actually expected the car to move rather slowly.

“The car moved very fast in accordance with the 110 kilometer per hour speed limit on the expressway and I was amazed at how the car can keep a good distance from other cars and change lanes.”

At first, the presidential security office was worried about the president trying the car on a real expressway rather than a test circuit.

Moon pushed ahead with his desire to try the car on real roads.

The president’s ride was recorded from inside the vehicle and the video will be used to promote the development of Korea’s self-driving technology.

“I was partly worried that Korea was slightly behind other countries in technologies such as fuel cells, electric vehicles and self-driving cars,” Moon said. “But that is not true.”

Reflecting on his own experience, he added, “I am happy to know there is no problem with the self-driving features of the car and that it can travel up to 600 kilometers on a single charge.”

Moon said he wants Korea to boost the number of electric vehicles in the country from the current 25,000 units to 350,000 units by 2022 and 3 million units by 2030.

Moon emphasized that the automobile industry has been a core contributor to Korea’s economy, accounting for 11 percent of employment in the manufacturing sector and 14 percent of manufactured exports.

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