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#Power of Businesses l 2021-09-06
Now it’s time to take a look at a Korean business bringing about changes in the global economy with some new ideas.
Today, we’re going to introduce you to SpringCloud, a self-driving mobility service provider. Let’s hear from company CEO Song Young-gi (송영기).
SpringCloud provides autonomous driving mobility services and engages in various projects using data collected from those services. At present, the company runs self-driving shuttles in some regions in Korea, including Seonyu Island in Gunsan, Daegu City and Sejong City, using infrastructure and technology related to autonomous driving.
While traveling in the U.S. and Europe, I thought that self-driving would not only ensure safety and convenience but could even change our lives as well. I hoped to create new services using new technology of autonomous driving. That’s one of the reasons why I set up the company.
Song is an expert in automotive software. Previously, he worked as a research professor at Yonsei University. He developed a system called “Around View” that shows a 360-degree view of the vehicle environment on a display screen using four cameras installed on the vehicle. It was the first of its kind in Korea. With a vision of autonomous driving, he established his own company, SpringCloud, in 2017.
The company’s signature autonomous shuttle service is operated on a trial basis in four regions in Korea, such as Daegu, Seonyu Island in Gunsan, Sejong Lake Park and Seoul National University of Science and Technology.
In a shuttle service, a vehicle constantly travels short distances between stops. For example, a shuttle bus may run through a university or factory. What we’re working on is self-driving shuttles, especially for tourism purposes. It would be great to drive your own car to travel around a beautiful area. But it will also be significant if self-driving vehicles carry visitors in a tourist spot. Travelers in Europe have probably used rail vehicles known as trams. We aim to enable tourists to South Korea to use autonomous shuttles when traveling in the country.
Currently, SpringCloud offers a level 4 autonomous shuttle service. It is the top level in Korea. A level 4 self-driving vehicle does not need a steering wheel. That means a vehicle without a steering wheel can drive on its own to reach a pre-determined destination. Such a futuristic scene, which many people may have envisioned at least once when they were little, is becoming a reality.
To obtain level 4 or 5 autonomous driving skills, vehicles are required to resolve various problems that may occur while driving. SpringCloud is developing cloud-based AI technology so autonomous vehicles can assess and cope with the situation in a smarter way by analyzing data in the cloud. The company is proud of its own technology called STEP, which it developed with the support of the Ministry of Science and ICT.
If customers are considering purchasing or using our autonomous driving service, their primary concern must be safety. Our technology, STEP, can assess whether sensors can recognize objects accurately. When the assessment shows that the service is 99.9 percent safe, we can offer the service and users will find it reliable.
Self-driving cars actually run into many problems on the road. They may run on the road without traffic lanes. They might also have to avoid pedestrians or trees. They should move around in rainy or snowy weather, day and night. We develop technology that ensures safe autonomous driving in any environment, and this sets us apart from other companies.
SpringCloud joined the Association for Standardization of Automation and Measuring Systems early this year. Established in 1998, the association promotes standardization of advanced automotive technology. Its members include global automakers such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche as well as many other companies from the automotive industry.
Gaining membership of the association means that SpringCloud has earned due recognition for its technology and vision, and it will also be able to cope with any change in autonomous driving technology quickly and effectively.
While the company has taken a first step toward exploring the global market, it is also putting a great deal of effort into training human resources in Korea.
We’ve seen more and more solutions related to autonomous mobility, ranging from robots and self-driving vehicles to airplanes. The industry requires a lot of manpower. While living overseas, I discovered that industrial development would be difficult without technical professionals. But in reality, it is not easy for startups to secure competent workforce. That’s why we collaborate with universities to develop training programs. We’ve brought in a great education program about autonomous driving from the U.K. and introduced it in Korea. We continue to invest in training projects operated by universities and select workers from there occasionally. Now, we have about 60 employees. I predict the number will increase to nearly 130 in a year or so. We’ll hire and train many more workers.
SpringCloud has set up the Autonomous Driving Global Academy jointly with AutoSens in the U.K. Founded in 2016, AutoSens is a community for engineers, researchers and industry professionals related to autonomous vehicles. With more than 6,000 members from 39 countries around the world, it hosts AutoSens Conference, which is recognized as the top conference in the field of autonomous driving. Through the new academy, SpringCloud hopes to nurture specialists in self-driving and help officials in charge of relevant tasks improve their expertise further. CEO Song explains the company’s next plans.
We’re wondering how to use autonomous driving services in everyday life.
For example, self-driving capabilities could be introduced to food waste collection vehicles or garbage trucks. We’ll create a branch office in Singapore later this year with the support of the Korea Institute of Startup and Entrepreneurship Development. We’ll promote our achievements and innovative services overseas so we can find opportunities to attract investment and sell our solutions.
SpringCloud’s ultimate goal is to develop autonomous driving services from the consumers’ point of view. For instance, it is considering launching a self-driving shuttle service for those living in remote rural areas and for disabled people. The company always takes vulnerable road users into consideration, advancing the era of autonomous driving, which still seems a little bit far.