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South Korea building entire 'city' for autonomous car development

It'll occupy 88 acres, which isn't the size of Seoul or anything, but it's still pretty darn substantial.

Hyundai autonomous Ioniq prototype
Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Testing self-driving cars in public is all well and good, but if you want to create a series of repeatable situations for learning purposes, you're better of doing it somewhere devoted to that kind of work.

The South Korean government hopes to open K-City later this year, BusinessKorea reports. Occupying about 88 acres, or 360,000 square meters, K-City is a "city" built for the express purpose of autonomous-car development. It'll be loaded up with bus lanes, expressways, parking lots and other areas self-driving cars will need to learn to navigate.

K-City will offer something public testing cannot -- repeatability. You can't just tell all the traffic in Seoul to stop, back up and drive the same route again. By having a more controlled area, the South Korean government believes K-City can offer even more help for the automakers and suppliers currently working on self-driving cars.

Hyundai's been developing its autonomous Ioniq for some time, and we were lucky enough to take a spin ahead of CES 2017.

Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow

Right now, both Hyundai and Kia are working on autonomous-car solutions in South Korea. A number of tech companies are getting in on the action, as well, including SK Telecom and Samsung. The hope is that all these companies will be able to use K-City and benefit from it.

There are other perceived benefits, as well. BusinessKorea says experts could benefit from additional data collection done on-site. The data obtained during all this testing could be used for urban planning or insurance purposes, for example.

K-City is expected to have a soft opening in October, with only the expressways offered up. The government is expected to finish work on the facility in 2018, with a full-on opening slated for the second half of next year.

Korea's autonomous-testing facility can be likened to Mcity in Michigan. Mcity is a research facility at the University of Michigan, and it functions much in the same way as K-City, offering automakers and other companies a controlled environment for development and testing. K-City will be much larger, though, coming in at 88 acres, compared to Mcity's 32-acre footprint.