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The autonomous Kia Soul can be controlled with a smartwatch (Photo: Kia)

LAS VEGAS -- Kia said it is ready to start introducing partially automated vehicles, but fully autonomous cars will have to wait until 2030.

The Korean carmaker also said at the CES consumer electronics show that it will bundle all its advanced driver-assistance technologies under a new sub-brand, Drive Wise. It will include planned technologies such as highway autonomous driving, urban autonomous driving, preceding vehicle following, emergency stopping, traffic jam assist and a new autonomous parking function.

"The innovations presented at this year’s show demonstrate the future direction we are taking,” said Tae-Won Lim, senior vice president at Hyundai's Central Advanced Research and Engineering Institute. Hyundai is the parent company of Kia.

Kia will illustrate some of its planned future technologies in the Kia Novo concept car it is bringing to Las Vegas. It first showed a version of the concept at the Seoul auto show in April last year.

The Novo concept car provides insight into Kia's thinking on medium and longer term driving trends. "We're also conducting research on how autonomous driving will change the way we drive in the future," said Seung Ho Hwang, Kia executive vice president. He told reporters at a press briefing here that the Novo includes functionality that fits into Kia's medium-term plans. "In less than 10 years some or all of these features will be commercialized," Hwang said.

New HMI functions planned by Kia will also be marketed under the Drive Wise banner. These include gesture control, fingerprint sensors and smart-device connectivity.

At CES, Kia is showcasing a special I-Cockpit display. It features the brand's next-generation HMI, which is based on the concept of ”˜blind control.’ This technology uses a fingerprint touchpad and gesture recognition to operate the car’s controls.

Kia has earmarked 2 billion dlrs by 2018 to fast-track development of its various new Drive Wise technologies.

The brand is already testing autonomous vehicles and recently received a license from the state of Nevada to test fully autonomous versions of the electric Kia Soul on public roads. Executives said they plan to acquire licenses elsewhere as well, including in South Korea.

Kia's roadmap calls for partially automated vehicles to be on sale by 2020, highly automated cars by 2025 and fully automated vehicles by 2030.

Henry Bzeih, Kia's chief US technology strategist and head of connected vehicle, said the carmaker is fully committed to its strategy. "The end of the journey is the fully autonomous car." And in response to a question about whether a Kia will in future be able to drive from A to B without any occupants, Bzeih said: "The ultimate goal is to be able to command a car without being in it."

-By Arjen Bongard