Kia unveils 'Automode' autonomous driving tech that will debut on the EV9 SUV

Its updated roadmap now includes 14 fully electric models by 2027.


Much as Hyundai did yesterday, Kia has announced an electrification roadmap at its 2022 Investor Day, promising to have 14 fully electric models by 2027 and sales of 1.2 million EVs by 2030. It also revealed that its EV9 SUV, unveiled in concept form last November at the LA Auto Show, will be the first to use autonomous driving tech it calls "Automode."

Kia's roadmap builds on its "Plan S" development strategy announced early in 2021 that included new branding and a plan to introduce of seven EVs by 2027. Now, the company plans to double that with 14 BEV (battery electric vehicle) models available by 2027 and total EV sales of 1.2 million by 2030. It also projects to sell 4 million vehicles annually by 2030, so EVs would make up just over a quarter of that — while automakers like Mercedes-Benz plan to only sell BEVs by 2030.

The strategy is still ambitious, as it's starting with 160,000 BEV sales this year and plans to ramp that up by five times to 807,000 units in 2026 and 1.2 million by 2030. To hit those targets, Kia will introduce at least two new electric vehicles per year. A couple of those will be electric pickup trucks, including a "dedicated electric pickup truck and a strategic model for emerging markets," the company said.

In the near term, Kia plans to launch its flagship electric vehicle, the EV9 SUV, by 2023. The concept version it teased last year had squared-off Range Rover-ish lines, a massive 27-inch display and a Tesla-like yoke instead of a steering wheel. Kia now says that it will be around 5 meters long, accelerate to 100 km/h (62 MPH) in five seconds, and travel 540 km (340 miles) on a charge — while giving you an extra 100 km of range with just six minutes of charging.

The EV9 will also offer over the air (OTA) and FoD (feature on demand) services for the first time, allowing owners to easily update their vehicle's software. "In addition, it will be the first model to be equipped with Kia’s advanced AutoMode autonomous driving technology," it said. Automode will be "rapidly expanded" throughout its lineup after that.

What is Automode, you might ask? All we know so far is that it's "a range of autonomous driving technologies" that will include a "Highway Driving Pilot" feature that works by itself without driver intervention on highway sections. It will also be improved as the technology develops via wireless updates. It sounds like at least Level 3 self-driving, something still only available from a few automakers, so we'll have to see how that goes for Kia.

In its press release, Kia offers more details about how and where it plans to sell EVs, PHEVs, and hybrid models around the world. However, it has already overhauled its plans substantially just over the past year, and is likely to do so again. Given the early success (2,126 units sold in February) and generally glowing reviews of the EV6, Kia has reason to be confident about future EV plans.