As the world hungers for more advances in automobiles and wonders why it is taking so long to achieve the promise of autonomous vehicles, the South Korean government has just announced a bold new move. It has committed to producing fully automated cars by the year 2027.

The Ministry of Technology, Industry and Energy stated in late June that it has approved a significant undertaking to deliver on this promise in the next six years. As part of that commitment, the Ministry said that it has identified 53 different projects, with a budget totaling more than $75 million, in 2021, for the effort. For the length of the program, Korea will invest more than $1 billion to make this a reality.

Involved with the massive program are more than 3,500 researchers and experts including 373 different organizations that are involved. Korea’s investment will focus on developing and producing automotive parts for self-driving cars as well as the artificial intelligence software needed to control the vehicles. 

This latest announcement follows on the heels with earlier announcements on the larger investment through 2027, achieving Level 4 automation by the targeted deadline. Level four is a system of identifying certain capabilities for vehicle autonomy. The key difference between Level 3 and Level 4 automation is that Level 4 vehicles can intervene if things go wrong or there is a system failure. With Level 4, while cars do not require human interaction in most circumstances, a person still has the option to manually override the system if needed. 

In Level 4, drivers are no longer required to grab steering wheels. It compares to the Level 2 technology currently available in the market, in which drivers need to stay focused at all times, while cars are only able to follow traffic lanes. Only limited interventions are needed under Level 3. Korea’s existing travel rules and regulations will need to be revised to accommodate these new capabilities. 

According to the Korea Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, Korea’s L4-level autonomous car Autove, with no driver seat inside, is just now beginning its initial test runs. The plan is for Autove to roam ten times each day inside an industrial park at a restricted speed limit of 25 kilometres per hour.