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Technology

South Korea wants highways ready for self-driving cars by 2024

Government plans for signaling tech and 3-D maps aim to jump-start private sector

SEOUL -- Every expressway across South Korea will be modified for self-driving vehicles over the next few years, the government said Oct. 15, in an ambitious project intended to remove a major barrier facing the technology.

South Korea initially plans to upgrade the country's 5,500 km of highways, then expand the infrastructure on local streets in major cities as well by 2024.

The Asian country, which has taken the lead in rolling out fifth-generation wireless communications, is staking out a position at the front of the pack in driverless car infrastructure as well.

For example, signaling devices installed at traffic lights will inform the autonomous vehicle directly when the light changes color, rather than the car having to rely on a camera to determine whether the light is red or green.

Other signals will relay the width of lanes so that the vehicles can adjust accordingly. In addition, the government intends to work mostly with domestic companies to develop detailed 3-D mapping data.

Relevant South Korean agencies will craft specifications for the signaling technology. Manufacturers will be given incentives to develop the products.

Wireless carriers KT and SK Telecom are conducting research and development in the area. The government's road map toward a driverless future will encourage development in the private sector.

Yet South Korea's private sector trails those from other countries at developing autonomous technology in the vehicles themselves. Hyundai Motor, the nation's leading automaker, announced a driverless collaboration with Aptiv, a U.S.-based auto tech supplier, in a bid to catch up with rivals.

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