페이지 정보작성자 Autonomous a2z 조회 99 작성일 2023-10-30
- Media inquiries on development background of 12-seater driverless shuttle “MS,” prospects of entering overseas markets, etc.
- Series B investment process, commercialization plans, etc.
- Byungyong You, technical director, says "It will be available on public roads in 2025!” and “We will continue to develop and improve our technology!"
Yongchul Oh, CTO of Autonomous a2z (left), and Byungyong You, technical director of Autonomous a2z (right), answer reporters’ inquiries during a press conference held at the 2023 DIFA in October 19, 2023. | Photo by AVING NEWS
Byungyong You (right), technical director of
Autonomous a2z, speaks during a presentation on “Autonomous a2z Level 4
Autonomous Driving Technology Box Car” at the Autonomous a2z booth in the 2023
DIFA in October 19, 2023. | Photo by AVING NEWS
Autonomous a2z, an autonomous driving company developing a driverless mobility platform, organized a press conference at the “2023 Daegu International Future Auto & Mobility Expo (hereinafter DIFA)" in Daegu EXCO from Thursday, October 19 to Saturday, October 21.
Autonomous a2z is an autonomous driving startup founded in 2018 that has proven its technology through the largest number of autonomous vehicles in Korea, the longest autonomous driving record in Korea, and the largest number of temporary operation permit districts in Korea, and in 2023, it was ranked 13th in the global autonomous driving leaderboard evaluated by the U.S. Guidehouse Insights.
Most importantly, Autonomous a2z didn't simply demonstrate the technology, but actually operated autonomous vehicles to prove the technology was real. In particular, the “Osong-Sejong Autonomous Bus" operated directly by Autonomous a2z expanded its route from October 6, running four times a day from Osong Station via the Sejong Government Complex to Banseok Station in Daejeon, covering a round-trip distance of 64.4 kilometers, becoming the first commercialized autonomous bus route in Korea.
In addition, the Daegu Technopolis-National Industrial Complex area has been operating the “Dalgubeol Autonomous Vehicle+” self-driving vehicle since November 2022, and through September this year, it has achieved a cumulative number of 3,317 calls and about 6,000 passengers, proving that it has both technology and safety.
In particular, at the 2023 DIFA, the “Dalgubeol Autonomous Vehicle+” self-driving vehicle operated by Autonomous a2z completed the course starting from the Expo and through the Dongdaegu area in just three days and finished the event without a single accident. Sam Abuelsamid of global market research firm Guidehouse Insights, who took the vehicle for a test drive on Friday, October 20th, was impressed with the Autonomous a2z's ability to navigate complex roads like Dongdaegu Station in just three days.
On Thursday, October 19th, the day of the opening ceremony, Autonomous a2z unveiled its flagship autonomous vehicle model “MS” (Middle Shuttle), which is soon to be mass-produced, as well as “SD” (Small Delivery) and “Level 4 Autonomous Driving Software” technologies. In addition, the media stage at the booth featured presentations on the company's self-developed mass-produced autonomous vehicles, applied technologies, commercialization plans, and future visions, as well as a Q&A session with members of the Automobile Writers’ Association of Korea (AWAK).
During the Q&A session, Byungyong You, technical director of Autonomous a2z, and Yongchul Oh, CTO of Autonomous a2z, were present to answer questions from reporters. Here are the complete questions and answers.
Yongchul Oh, CTO of Autonomous a2z (left), and
Byungyong You, technical director of Autonomous a2z (right), answer reporters’
inquiries during a press conference held at the 2023 DIFA in October 19, 2023.
| Photo by AVING NEWS
Q1. How did Autonomous a2z come to develop a 12-passenger driverless shuttle?
A. Director Byungyong You : We started by developing Level 4 autonomous driving software that goes through the stages of perception, determination, and control. We then spent four to five years demonstrating autonomous vehicles by converting production vehicles developed by OEMs into autonomous vehicles using sensors and controllers equipped with software, which was not easy. For example, we wanted the vehicles (with the software) to move as organically as we intended, but it wasn't easy. This is because the vehicle was not built for Level 4 autonomous driving in the first place.
The performance of all 13 vehicles with the software varied, and the degree of software compatibility varied from vehicle to vehicle. The team decided that the perfect vessel for the autonomous driving software was needed, so the “hardware,” a 12-seater driverless shuttle, was developed. In the case of Tesla, the company has evolved where it is today by building software and hardware in parallel.
Q2. According to this year's comprehensive ranking of global autonomous driving technologies by global market research firm Guidehouse Insights, Autonomous a2z is ranked 13th. With the exception of Hyundai Motor Group and American Motional Inc., having a purely Korean company on the list seems like a huge accomplishment. How did a startup grow so fast in just five years?
A. Director Byungyong You : After passing a kind of "paper assessment" conducted by Guidehouse Insights, and then continuing to interview, evaluate, and receive feedback, we realized that our strategy was on the right track.
Autonomous a2z has so far targeted business to business (B2B) and business to government (B2G), not business to consumer (B2C). When we saw the positive evaluation (from Guidehouse Insights) reflecting the cumulative mileage we had gained by utilizing infrastructure, developing our own technology, and conducting demonstrations involving the public, we became confident in the strategy we had chosen. Since then, we've focused all of our efforts on the Level 4 demonstration of autonomous vehicles, and we have made good progress.
In this evaluation, the "strategy score" was significantly higher than that of companies with trillions of dollars in enterprise value. On the other hand, the "performance score" was not as high. A performance score is a measure of a company's ability to grow with the capital it currently has available. The score is to assess, for example, whether the company has the capital to build and operate 1,000 self-driving vehicles.
So with this Series B investment, we're able to show that the capital is there to actually mass produce (self-driving) vehicles. I'm confident that if we build on this and work harder, we can move up higher in the rankings. The goal is to move up from the current 13th place to the competitor group and then to the leader group.
A view of the press conference held at the
Autonomous a2z booth in the 2023 DIFA on October 19, 2023 | Photo by AVING
Q3. I understand that you recently participated in the "COSMO Project" in Singapore, where you explained your technology, strategy, etc. How was the reaction from the field? Will this change the direction of your business in Singapore?
A. CTO Yongchul Oh: Singapore doesn't have a lot of tech companies, so we're putting a lot of effort into attracting tech companies. Self-driving companies were plentiful in the early days, but only a few remain. Therefore, Singapore has been very welcoming of our presence in their country through the COSMO project.
Singapore is at the top of the list of countries we're looking to expand into. It is a city-state with well-established roads, and it will be easy to prove the effectiveness of the LiDAR infrastructure system. Within the COSMO project, the first LiDAR infrastructure system was installed to prove that the system can help in terms of autonomous driving and traffic safety.
For future projects, we plan to demonstrate the use of “MS” and “SD” based on the LiDAR infrastructure system, and continue promotions in light of this strategy.
Q4. Last October, Argo AI, a global autonomous driving joint venture with an enterprise value of nearly KRW 10 trillion, went bankrupt and never found a new owner. Now that Autonomous a2z is ahead of the competition in the U.S. market, how do you plan to leverage this opportunity? And what is your strategy for the U.S. market going forward?
A. Director Byungyong You : After the bankruptcy filing of Argo AI, which received more than 1 trillion won in investment, it is true that investment funds for the autonomous driving market have cooled rapidly in Korea. In the case of our recent Series B investment, it took us a very long time to explain and convince the investors of our strategy and feasibility, and we finally got the investment last month.
It’s also true that there has been significant changes in the way Guidehouse Insights and others evaluate companies after the Argo AI bankruptcy. The focus used to be about the amount of investment a company received, the size of the company, and the amount of capital it had, but now it's about the viability, sustainability, and operability of the company's technology. This is evidenced by Mobileye's rise to the top of the leaderboard, displacing longtime leader Waymo LLC. The reason for this is simple. This is because Mobileye has a roadmap for autonomous driving that includes a 70% share of the global ADAS market. Therefore, instead of looking at robot taxis or the B2C market, Autonomous a2z is working on a demonstration-oriented business in cooperation with public institutions and the central government (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport).
Once the domestic demonstration work is completed, we plan to start the demonstration in the U.S., but since the U.S. is a large country, we consider entering the vehicle sensor-based market rather than infrastructure. This is similar to the strategy employed by GM Cruise LLC and Google Waymo LLC.
Q5. In the U.S., there have been recent
accidents involving Cruise Taxis and Tesla FSD (Full Self-Driving). What are
your responses to the technical engineering challenges in the field?
A. CTO Yongchul Oh: Looking at Cruise and Tesla's FSD technology, I thought that fully autonomous driving in the form of robot taxis was a bit far in the future, but it seems that this era is coming sooner than I thought.
We’re still doing a lot of testing on incomplete elements. It will take some time before we can rely on sensors alone for full safety. Since our main business model is smart city solutions, we envision a way to receive information from the infrastructure by combining infrastructure solutions with remote driving, etc. In this way, we expect to be able to recognize areas that sensors are unable to detect. The technology will be developed in the direction of preventing human and vehicle accidents with the help of control or remote driving in dangerous situations.
Q6. It is known that the company recently raised 34 billion won in Series B funding. It seems there are many tasks ahead of you, and I'm curious to know where you plan to focus your efforts. Finally, what are the next steps for the commercialization and wider deployment of autonomous vehicles in public transportation?
A. Director Byungyong You : We’re planning prototype mass production for both MS and SD platforms in the second half of next year and pilot mass production in 2025.
We will first build a few dozen units to demonstrate the technology in places where such activities are not restricted by law, for instance on a university campus or in a factory laboratory. If no problems are identified at this stage, we plan to demonstrate on general roads (public roads) such as the Sejong BRT line in 2025. In particular, we plan to deploy both MS and SD models in rural and mountainous regions and areas with disadvantaged transportation. This is because the locations mentioned above have real problems for residents, such as hiring drivers and reduced service routes.
In addition, we have an IPO to investors scheduled for the second half of 2025, so we will work diligently to prepare in time.
Meanwhile, the 2023 DIFA, which has been held for the seventh time in Daegu since 2017, covered the entire mobility industry, including eco-friendly vehicles (electric and hydrogen), motorized parts such as motors, batteries, and chargers, autonomous driving, and urban air mobility (UAM) under the theme of “From the ground to the sky, a new beginning of mobility.” In particular, as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport and the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, the co-host Ministries, are the two main pillars of policy promotion in preparation for the era of full autonomous driving services and UAM commercialization through 2027-2030, the exhibition showcased the technological achievements supported by the policy focus and introduced the latest policy directions.
→ Go to the 2023 DIFA news special page