Start-up and investment trends in mobility

Smart mobility, smart cities, ecofriendly for transportation, robotics and AI


John Suh

John Suh

Vice President and Founding Director, Hyundai CRADLE

Jan Beke

Jan Beke

Enterprise Director and Commercial Lead, Quid

Dr. John Suh, Vice President and Founding Director, Hyundai CRADLE Dr. John Suh, Vice President and Founding Director, Hyundai CRADLE

Hyundai’s Strategy and Technology division was formed in May 2017. The goal is both simple and complex: To help shape the future of innovation for Hyundai Motor Group.

"As the name suggests,” said John Suh, Vice President and Founding Director of Hyundai CRADLE, “we formulate initial strategic plans and then identify the new technologies that we ought to be investing in, partnering with or acquiring internally and externally.”

The Strategy and Technology division has five key areas of strategic interest that intersect with today’s prevailing mega trends (the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, for example) and Hyundai Motor Group’s core competencies: smart mobility, smart cities, ecofriendly energy for transportation, robotics and artificial intelligence.

In terms of smart mobility, Hyundai is focused on mobility as a service. “We look at it regionally and service type,” said Suh. “We’re trying to determine the new mobility service concepts, the kinds of vehicles that are important for mobility service, and car-sharing and ride-hailing platform development.”

Cities around the world are leveraging data and new technologies to better manage services. “From a mobility perspective, it’s an issue of connectivity and the systems that are needed to make smart mobility services actually work in an ecosystem context,” said Suh.

On the topic of ecofriendly energy, Hyundai’s work is primarily around next-gen battery technology, fuel cells, charging infrastructure and CO2-free hydrogen generation and storage, according to Suh.

In robotics, Hyundai is working to commercialize enabling technologies for “wearable and personal service robots, as well as industrial robots,” said Suh.

The last focus area, artificial intelligence, is much more of a horizontal technology, said Suh. “It really services the other four,” he said. “Artificial intelligence data analytics permeates all businesses.”

Suh emphasized that Hyundai Strategy and Technology pursues its five focus themes through an open innovation approach, integrating a broad array of external ideas, technologies and talents. “Specifically, we can do joint R&D with universities, startup investments or early stage business incubation, joint ventures and R&D with other companies, or M&A.

Dr. John Suh, Vice President and Founding Director, Hyundai CRADLE Dr. John Suh, Vice President and Founding Director, Hyundai CRADLE

As for CRADLE, the organization he manages directly, Suh characterized it as part of Hyundai’s global network of technology-, market- and culture-driven innovation hubs. Specifically, CRADLE—the Center for Robotic-Augmented Design in Living Experiences—focuses on venture capital investment. Suh’s team promotes the growth of mobility innovations from initial concept into the prototype phase and, ideally, production.

A particularly interesting and unique innovation hub is ZER01NE, which Hyundai calls a “talent playground” and startup accelerator.  Based in Seoul, ZER01NE is physically separate from all other Hyundai facilities to ensure it is different from the culture of the rest of the organization.

“We have evaluated and invited half a dozen or so startups to be located within this accelerator,” said Suh. “It's also an art studio and we have invited half a dozen or so artists to come in and use this space as their workshop. The idea is that when you combine the creative talent of an artist with the business or technology mindset of a startup, something interesting can happen.”

Jan Beke, Enterprise Director and Commercial Lead, Quid Jan Beke, Enterprise Director and Commercial Lead, Quid

In the other portion of this session, Jan Beke of Quid, took a deeper dive into one of Hyundai Strategy and Technology’s focus themes: the future of smart cities. Beke outlined a research project led by Quid, which employs data science, artificial intelligence and natural language processing algorithms to help companies visualize market trends, patterns and cultural phenomena by collecting and mapping massive amounts of information. 

In 2018 Hyundai engaged Quid in an effort to understand the future of mobility, and how smart cities are shaping that future. Quid aggregated and analyzed millions of data points from news agencies, financial data providers, academic research, IP filings and patent offices, among other sources to learn what makes a city “smart.” Looking across 400 cities they uncovered eight fundamental forces that they call “shapers:” the economy, public safety, people, mobility, infrastructure, health care, governance and the environment. By collecting city-specific data on each shaper Quid identified patterns and trends that informed 10 distinct city personas.

According to Beke, the data proves that purely regional perspectives are outdated. “In a globalized world consumer needs overlap based on city identity rather than location,” said Beke. “The living canvas of data helps us understand the different types of cities, how they are becoming smarter, and what that means for their mobility future. This empowers Hyundai to pursue the optimal technology trends, mobility concepts and transportation solutions.”

To access John’s and Jan’s presentations, please click here