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Kia: autonomous driving is up to 15 years away

Kia is preparing for the era of self-driving cars and says the technology to support them is almost showroom-ready, but admits there are still "a lot of hurdles" to overcome.

"We're working on it and talking to the Department of Transportation," said Orth Hedrick, the vice-president of product planning at Kia Motors America. "The big problem is how we assign liability in the event of something going wrong.

"In this country there is a lot of litigation and no automobile manufacturer wants to open itself to the risk of that."

Hedrick is certain that self-driving cars will come, but is reluctant to say when. "We have the technology in place but we can't get everything stitched together."

"Maybe it could start with autonomous driving lanes on highways, like the car-pool lanes that exist today. But what happens when there are construction sites which change the road pattern? There are various scenarios like that which complicate the issue."

In America, Kia is gradually introducing features to support autonomous driving, most of which are not yet offered on European models.

The K900, a Mercedes S-Class-sized saloon which is also available as the K9 or Quoris in a handful of markets outside Europe, is available with smart cruise control and warnings which alert the driver if the car is drifting out of lane, if overtaking traffic is approaching from behind or if the car is about to reverse out of a parking spot into the path of one crossing its path.

But Hedrick says of full autonomous driving: "It'll happen eventually, but we don't know the time frame. My guess is that it won't really be a feature for 10 or 15 years."

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