Korea Self-Driving Car 1993
Photo credit: Jung Yeon-je / AFP
Long before Tesla’s FSD (Full Self Driving) technology, Han Min-hong was already testing his self-driving car on the roads of Seoul back in 1993. Fast forward to 1995, it successfully navigated 185-miles from Seoul to the southern port of Busan, on the most heavily-traveled expressway in South Korea. AI-powered systems didn’t yet exist, or at least in vehicles, so Han used an Intel 386-chip-powered desktop computer, complete with monitor and keyboard, located in the passenger seat.

Why was this system not implemented in vehicles earlier? Well, the government was more focused on the heavy industry (steel, shipbuilding, etc.) and eventually cut funding to his research at Korea University. Han believes that self-driving technology is most certainly the future, but there are limits, safety wise, and believes it’s best used for transporting goods rather than humans.

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It felt extraordinary. The workload was very heavy, [but his team] had an enormous passion as it was something others hadn’t done yet, something that hadn’t come out in the world yet,” said the inventor.

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