It's getting perilously difficult to find a major automaker that isn't funneling cash into autonomous research; the latest is Kia, which pulled the wraps off its "Drive Wise" brand at CES today. Drive Wise is basically Kia's phrase for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), the broad umbrella of autonomous-like features ranging from active cruise control to automatic emergency braking that, taken together, eventually all adds up to an actual self-driving car.
The company is aiming for 2030 to put fully autonomous Kias on the road — the kinds of autonomous cars that can pick you up without a driver and leave you somewhere else, without you necessarily having to ever take control. "Partially autonomous" cars are coming much sooner, of course; Tesla already has them in drivers' hands with its Autopilot beta, and other companies like GM and Volvo aren't far behind. Kia says that it's first partially autonomous Drive Wise-branded cars will be on the road in 2020, "building upon the current generation of driver-assistance systems." Think features like self-parking and highway self-driving, for instance, where you need to take over for when you're on surface streets.
Kia plans to spend $2 billion by 2018 in order to "fast-track" its autonomous development, and to that end, it has announced that it's been granted an autonomous license in Nevada — one of the few US states currently issuing autonomous research licenses.
In addition to self-driving, Drive Wise is also getting some fancy new user interface concepts — Kia is demonstrating what it calls "blind control," where a fingerprint scanner recognizes the driver and sets his or her preferences, and gesture control is used to interact with all of the car's functions. Gesture control has become one of the auto industry's must-have features over the last year: BMW and Volkswagen both demonstrated it last year, BMW launched it on the new 7 Series, and now, Kia is testing it out. (GM's infotainment boss, Phil Abram, is more skeptical that it's a good solution.)
For now, Kia is testing Drive Wise features in a specially outfitted Soul EV, the company's electric compact crossover. In all likelihood, it'll launch on other models in the lineup by the time the first features launch in 2020.