Kia looks to be considering an autonomous driving package akin to Tesla for its latest electric car, according to a survey sent to buyers in the US.
Kia may follow Tesla in offering an autonomous driving option package for its Kia EV6 electric car – priced at 20 per cent of the cost of the entire car – according to a new report.
According to The Korean Car Blog, a survey created by Kia USA is surveying current EV6 owners on the possibility of a “full self driving option”, priced from $US7500 ($AU10,800) – or 18 per cent of the cost of the base car itself (in the US, at $US41,400).
No timing is given for the roll-out of such a package, however other questions in the customer survey suggest it may be arrive as soon as the EV6’s mid-life facelift, due in 2024, based on Kia’s usual model life cycles.
If Kia introduces such an option, it would become the first ‘traditional’ car maker to do so, following in the footsteps of electric car specialist Tesla, which offers a controversial ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’ option on its latest electric cars.
The Tesla system – priced much higher, at $US12,000 (or $AU10,100 here) – is intended to allow the car to “drive itself” on city streets and highways, by changing lanes, reacting to traffic lights and road signs, and navigating other road users.
However, the system – which is limited to North America in beta form, and requires driver supervision – has remains a work in progress, with videos online showing the driving aid steering Teslas it’s fitted to concrete obstacles, oncoming lanes at intersections, and bicycle paths.
Kia’s autonomous driving technology is limited to what it calls ‘Highway Driving Assist II’, which combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist to accelerate, brake and centre an EV6 in its lane on a freeway.
This is set to evolve to a new Highway Driving Pilot system with next year’s EV9 large electric SUV – classified a ‘Level 3’ system, allowing the car to drive itself (including auto lane changes) in certain conditions with human supervision, though drivers must be ready to take over when needed.
Kia has indicated plans to introduce a “full autonomous driving” package in 2025 or 2026, known as ‘AutoMode’ – expected to be a ‘Level 4’ system, where the car can handle all scenarios without driver supervision or take-over.
This system – which is planned to be used for Kia-designed ‘robo-taxis’ – is set to be fitted to “100 per cent of new cars in major markets and 80 per cent of total sales”, according to Kia CEO Ho Sung Song earlier this year.
It’s not clear which of these systems – Highway Driving Pilot, or AutoMode – Kia will charge $US7500 for, though it may be the Level 3 system, as by the time the Level 4 system arrives in 2026, the current EV6 will be five years old, and due for replacement.
It’s also unclear if these would be offered in Australia, as there are currently no laws supporting the use of such autonomous vehicles locally. However, this may change by the time Kia’s proposed systems arrive.
Alongside the autonomous driving query, Kia USA’s survey asked customers about “changes they would like to see” in the facelifted EV6, a simplified model range in the US, and a possible special edition with black paint and gold wheels.
Kia models typically operate on a five-year life cycle, with a facelift after three years – meaning the EV6, which launched overseas last year, is due for its update late next year or sometime in 2024, with an all-new model from 2026.