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Hyundai Plans Self-Driving Car Showcase for 2018 Winter Olympics

by Justin Tejada
Every two years, the Olympics represent a chance for countries to shine on a global stage. For most nations, those exploits take place on the fields, pools, tracks and mountains where the athletic competition takes place.

However, for the country that hosts the Games, there are many other unique opportunities to showcase the best that it has to offer, from cultural displays in the Opening Ceremony to the architecture of the different venues.

That will certainly be the case when Pyongyang, South Korea hosts the 2018 Winter Olympics in February. South Korea will most certainly pull out all the stops to brand itself as a global leader in various ways. One of those will be autonomous vehicle technology.

South Korean automaker Hyundai announced it will use the Olympics as an opportunity to showcase its self-driving technology.

Hyundai says that, at the Olympics, it will reveal a Level 4 autonomous vehicle, meaning it's a self-driving car that can operate itself in almost all situations. (Level 5 autonomy, or full autonomy that requires zero human intervention, is merely theoretical at this point.)

With the Olympics only a few months away, though, Hyundai is already pushing forward some of the tech that it figures to demo in February. It recently bumped up the timeline of its self-driving car technology in introducing its Highway Driving Assist 2 (HDA2) system.

Comparable to Tesla's Autopilot systems, Hyundai's HDA2 is rated by most as performing Level 2 autonomy. This means, essentially, that it can perform highway driving with little intervention from a human driver. The tech nears Level 3 autonomy when on freeways. If Hyundai does indeed have Level 4 tech to demonstrate soon, then it must consider its lesser technologies to be quite far along.

With the Winter Olympics, though, comes the possibility of inclement weather, and snow and other winter conditions have been known to be a major obstacle for self-driving cars to overcome. Apparently, though, Hyundai's engineers are hoping for the best wintry mix they can get, as they believe their cars will impress with their performance in poor weather. Like most autonomous vehicles, Hyundai's cars use Lidar and radar, but they also use HD mapping technology to get a more comprehensive understanding of their immediate environment.

At shows and conventions, car enthusiasts are able to see an endless number of demonstrations that automakers put on to showcase their vehicles' autonomous capabilities. For people with little interest in cars, though, there's a strong chance they've never seen an autonomous vehicle in action, in person or otherwise. If Hyundai can effectively leverage the mass exposure brought about by an Olympic Games, they could be the first company to demonstrate self-driving technology to a whole new audience.

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