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[Newsletter] RideFlux, an autonomous driving deep tech startup
Date
2023.08.21
Views
311

A bridge connecting people to people and people to Jeju

“RideFlux is a startup that develops full-stack software technology for unmanned autonomous driving. Jeju provides the perfect location for applying and realizing autonomous driving technology. Scalability in various environments, including weather, altitude, and terrain, is essential for autonomous driving, and that's why RideFlux chose Jeju.”

Park Junghee, CEO of RideFlux


‘Tamra Autonomous Shuttle’ navigates Jeju Island 


The future we dream of is taking various forms. Electric vehicles are gaining popularity as a future mode of transportation, with over 500,000 cumulative registrations in Korea in the first half of this year. Another advancement is the emergence of "autonomous vehicles," the pinnacle of cutting-edge technology, on our roads. RideFlux, thriving in Jeju, is shaping the future of the autonomous driving industry while traversing the island.



Q  Tamra Autonomous Shuttle has already become a renowned attraction in Jeju. The experience of riding an autonomous vehicle on Jeju's roads is quite impressive for tourists. 

Tamra Autonomous Shuttle is a self-driving mobility service available to everyone along Jeju's coastal road and around the Jungmun Tourist Complex since November 2022. It not only allows tourists and locals to experience riding in an autonomous vehicle but also serves as a platform to showcase our technological prowess. In July 2023, we upgraded the vehicle from a 3-passenger sedan (IONIQ EV) to a 12-passenger minivan (SOLATI). We began autonomous driving logistics services on the nation's longest autonomous driving route (round trip of 80 km) between Jeju Airport and the Jungmun Tourist Complex. Passengers can enjoy a 16 km ride along the Rainbow Coastal Road or conveniently have their luggage delivered from Jeju Airport to major hotels or golf courses within the Jungmun Tourist Complex.

 

Q  What led RideFlux to establish its presence in Jeju? 

Since the early stages of RideFlux's preparation for founding, we were determined to come to Jeju. The key to the scalability of autonomous driving lies in real roads, and Jeju provided the perfect testbed for autonomous driving. First, Jeju offers a diverse array of scenarios, including city roads, highways, unsignalized intersections, roundabouts, mountainous roads, coastal roads, and ever-changing weather conditions centered around Hallasan Mountain. All these environments present missions for autonomous vehicles. 

We founded RideFlux in 2018 and moved our headquarters to Jeju the following year, a strategic decision for our self-driving business. After five years in Jeju, we now have more than 80 employees, each of whom joined us with the grand dream of "autonomous driving," not just in Jeju but across the country.





Q   RideFlux and Jeju seem to be the perfect partners for each other. 

RideFlux has accumulated over 6,500 hours of autonomous driving data without safety driver intervention, thanks to Jeju's diverse road environments and rapidly changing weather conditions. We have also enhanced essential safety features, such as detecting unprotected left turns and pedestrians or cargo vehicles. Additionally, since a significant number of passengers arrive in Jeju via airplanes, we believe autonomous vehicles can be a viable option for traveling to their final destinations. 

Departing from the 3rd-floor passenger boarding area of Jeju Airport, one of the busiest roads in Jeju, Tamra Autonomous Shuttle connects Iho Tewoo Beach near the airport, the Rainbow Coastal Road, and Yongduam Rock, covering a total distance of 16 km. Moreover, the shuttle also provides a last-mile service for those staying in the Jungmun Tourist Complex, enabling passengers to effortlessly travel within a 2 km radius of their destination using the autonomous shuttle without relying on public transportation or rental cars. Tamra Autonomous Shuttle will be available free of charge for both residents and tourists until the end of this year, so we hope everyone gets to experience it. Recently, Jeju Science Park has been selected as a "self-driving car test driving zone," where on-demand autonomous vehicles will be operating on ten roads, including Jejudaehak-ro and Cheomdan-ro.

Jeju offers both opportunities and challenges for autonomous driving businesses. As we strive to address problems and advance technology, we are excited to launch the longest autonomous driving service in Korea on Jeju Island, which provides active support for autonomous driving services. 



The future of green mobility begins with autonomous electric vehicles 


RideFlux, a leading autonomous driving startup based in Jeju, believes the time is right to take a significant leap forward as it marks its sixth year. The company not only offers a safe and real autonomous driving experience to passengers but also plays a central role in Jeju Island's vision for the future of transportation. Collaborating with industry players like SoCar, Kakao Mobility, and the Eco-friendly Smart Vehicle Research Center of KAIST, RideFlux is improving the technology for autonomous driving. 



Q   Why do you believe autonomous vehicles are ultimately synonymous with green mobility? 

In the context of transportation, the transition towards a greener Earth involves replacing polluting internal combustion engine vehicles with electric and hydrogen cars. With the advent of autonomous driving, vehicle ownership is expected to decrease while shared mobility increases. This shift can potentially reduce carbon emissions from cars, as well as unnecessary vehicle operations and parking space occupation in congested urban areas. Ultimately, green mobility is the path we should take, and as the number of eco-friendly autonomous vehicles grows, they will offer stress-free, environmentally-conscious, and safe transportation for people.


Q  The era of commercially available autonomous driving services is upon us 

In 2020, RideFlux introduced a shuttle service from Jeju Airport to SoCar stations and later launched the free Tamra Autonomous Shuttle service, operating near the airport, to gain valuable insights and feedback from real passengers. In collaboration with Tada in 2021, we proudly launched a paid self-driving service covering the longest autonomous driving route in Korea, a round trip of 80 km, from Jeju Airport to Jungmun Tourist Complex

Passengers can easily book this service through the Tada app and enjoy the autonomous driving experience between designated pick-up and drop-off points. Offering a self-driving experience from Jeju International Airport to Jungmun Tourist Complex at a price of KRW 8,000 per person not only demonstrates the monetization of autonomous driving services but also presents the blueprint for this business.



Q  Forward-looking industries ultimately need to prove the viability and value of their business beyond the investment stage. 

To achieve fully safe autonomous driving without human intervention, the software integrated into autonomous vehicles is paramount. At RideFlux, we have developed a full-stack technology encompassing positioning, perception, prediction, planning, and control, while closely collaborating with Jeju's transportation system to ensure the most reliable autonomous driving. 

Currently, all autonomous vehicles in Korea have professionally trained safety drivers on board. Our primary focus is to achieve unmanned autonomous driving, where no safety personnel are present within the vehicle. While expanding autonomous passenger and logistics services throughout Jeju is vital, achieving unmanned autonomous driving will undoubtedly demonstrate the commercial viability and value of our technology. 




The Law of Attraction works in Jeju 


RideFlux, which relocated its headquarters to Jeju just one year after its founding, has a notably young workforce. As an autonomous driving company at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, recruiting software talent is crucial. The CEO, who relocated to Jeju with around 10 employees, shares how the company has grown. 



Q  Many young people say there are not enough job opportunities, while many companies say there is a shortage of talent. What is the reality for a startup like RideFlux, operating in a unique location like Jeju? 

The average age of our employees is 31, with most of them in their 20s and 30s. We have a diverse workforce, including those who joined us from the mainland during the early stages of our startup and those who came through Jeju's youth internship program. In 2021, we opened an office in Seoul, allowing employees to work flexibly between Jeju and Seoul through remote work and flexible commuting options. Most of our team members have a strong desire to grow and are fast learners, so we emphasize and support their personal growth to achieve the company's overall growth. 

We try to provide them with as many opportunities and experiences as possible. We also organize an in-house group called "RideFlux Gourmet Club," where employees regularly explore Jeju's local delicacies, creating a sense of enjoyment in working in Jeju. To make working in Jeju more appealing to young professionals from other regions, it would be great if the Jeju government could offer diverse programs at the provincial level.

 

Q  If you have any exciting plans ahead for RideFlux, please share them with us. 

We have been striving to expand our presence in various areas of Jeju, including expressways, coastal roads, and mountainous routes, to increase our "local scalability." Moving forward, our primary focus will be enhancing "reliability" to become synonymous with trustworthy autonomous driving that everyone can use confidently. Safety has been RideFlux's most critical value since our establishment, and to achieve it, we must enhance our technological reliability. Recently, at the prestigious AI conference CVPR 2023, we presented a paper on "Improving Perception Technology for Autonomous Vehicles." A new learning method proposed in this paper, co-authored by our Executive Vice President Jeong Hawook, set a new record in algorithm performance evaluation. Such achievements reinforce our direction to become the most reliable, fully autonomous driving company. 

We also keep our doors open for collaboration with various related companies. With Jeju's diverse transportation environment and the active support from the Jeju Provincial Government, we will continue to work to make our technology more appealing to Jeju, the mainland, and eventually the global market. Please look forward to it.

 

 

“ We hope that taking a ride in a RideFlux autonomous vehicle becomes an essential part of every Jeju trip. The experience will be entirely different from traditional cars, with the vehicle moving on its own without a driver holding the steering wheel and various electronic devices in place of a conventional dashboard. It would be amazing to see a child who once rode our vehicle with their family grow up to become an autonomous driving engineer. ‘RideFlux kids’ are always welcome!