The world's first self-driving vehicle test city equipped with 5G network has been completed in Korea.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced on Dec. 10 that it held a ceremony to mark the completion of "K-City" at the Korea Automobile Testing and Research Institute (KATRI) in Hwaseong City, Gyeonggi Province. It has been one year and four months since the construction began in August last year. KATRI is affiliated with the Korea Transportation Safety Authority.
Some 400 people attended the ceremony, including Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Kim Jung-ryul, National Assembly's Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee Chairman Park Soon-ja, and officials from companies and organizations that are developing self-driving cars.
K-City is a virtual city that is designed to test self-driving cars. It is the world's first test site for self-driving cars based on 5G network. It features reproductions of five actual environments, including a highway, urban center, and parking lot.
The government invested 12.5 billion won (US$11.07 million) to build the virtual city on a site of 320,000 square meters inside the KATRI driving test site. This is one eighth of the size of Yeouido Island, which is 2.9 square kilometers.
Here, it is possible to test most situations that can occur when driving on an autonomous vehicle. It has recreated five real environments: highway, urban center, suburban area, parking lot, and community.
As the virtual city is based on 5G network, it is also possible to develop technologies for cooperative driving and infotainment that utilize ultra-fast and large-capacity telecommunication infrastructure.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is planning to open K-City so that it can be used by anyone in the private sector, universities, and related startups, thus contributing to the development of self-driving technology.
"Self-driving cars will change our lives and create new industries and markets. They are one of the technologies that represent the Fourth Industrial Revolution," a ministry official said.
Meanwhile, according to the U.S. technology research firm Navigant Research, the global market for self-driving cars will reach 210 trillion won in 2020 and 1,300 trillion won in 2035.
Leading companies in the world are competing to stay ahead of others in the global self-driving car market. Major advanced countries are also operating test sites for self-driving cars, such as M-City in the U.S. and J-Town in Japan.
Prior to the completion of the K-City project, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport launched a private-public consultative body called ‘Autonomous Cooperative Driving Industry Development Council' in March in order to create new businesses and to converge businesses in various fields related to self-driving cars. Currently, 188 companies have joined the council. Since its inception, the organization has pushed for business meetings and technology exchanges between large and small businesses in order to create new business opportunities and promote mutual growth.
It also held international joint performance tests and prepared relevant standards to advance commercialization of C-ITS communication devices and base stations. C-ITS is a key system that supports autonomous cooperative driving by enabling two-way communication between road infrastructure and self-driving cars.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the council has helped middle and small member companies create jobs and increase investment.
Midsized and small and medium-sized businesses participating in the organization hired 300 new employees, up 51 percent from their original plans, and invested 80.1 billion won this year, up 147 percent from the previous year.
In particular, member companies are moving to enter foreign markets. For instance, IT Telecom has supplied telecommunication test equipment worth US$700,000 to a U.S. measurement company, while PLK Tech has exported advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) worth US$3 million.
"We will reduce traffic accidents and traffic congestion by building a new traffic system with self-driving cars. We will create an industrial complex in the neighboring areas of K-City to foster related industries and create jobs," said Kim Hyun-mi, minister of land, infrastructure and transport.