Samsung is the largest smartphone maker, and now, it aims to replicate the same success in autonomous driving tech. To do this, the Korean firm has introduced a $300 million Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund, which will support startups and other interesting projects in the automotive market.
Samsung expands autonomous driving efforts
For its first investment from the fund, the Korean firm invested €75 million (nearly $90 million) into TTTech, an Austria-based company that develops platforms and safety software for connected cars.
Young Sohn, Samsung’s president and chief strategy officer, told Reuters, “It’s time to communicate our intent to enter the autonomous driving market,” adding that the company has been “incubating this business for quite a while.”
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Samsung’s latest move builds on its recent $8 billion acquisition of auto and audio product maker Harman, but establishing a $300 million fund is not the only thing it announced. The company also plans to create a separate unit, the Autonomous/ADAS Strategic Business Unit (SBU), within Harman. The new unit will report to Harman’s Connected Car division and will work with the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center (SSIC) Smart Machines team on developing innovative tech to make vehicles smart, safe and connected.
“The Autonomous/ADAS Strategic Business Unit and automotive fund reflect the company’s commitment to the values of open innovation and collaboration. In partnership with OEMs and startups, we will make the driver and passenger experience safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable,” said Sohn in a press release.
Harman Chief Executive Officer Dinesh Paliwal told Bloomberg that the unit will work on everything from algorithms to systems integration. The work will also include developing an open advanced-driver assistance software platform which can be used by third parties as well. This could be seen as a big threat to Mobileye, which was recently acquired by Intel to advance its own ambitions in the self-driving segment.
“Our industry is literally screaming, saying, ‘We love Mobileye but we need an open platform,”’ Paliwal told Bloomberg.
Growing investments in autonomous driving tech
Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics feels that Samsung is well-poised to combine its consumer electronics and mobile devices business to support automotive technology, but entering the market could time. The Korean firm itself believes that by 2020, it will be able to pull things together.
“In the meantime, though, I’d expect to see a variety of clever implementations and pilots to test the waters,” said Lanctot.
The automotive industry is experiencing a massive transformation, with self-driving technology being at the center. Traditional car companies like GM, Volkswagen and Daimler are investing billions of dollars in developing tech that will help them secure a place in the future automotive market. For instance, Ford invested $1 billion into Argo AI for self-driving tech, while Lyft secured $1 billion from GM, and Volkswagen backs Mobvoi, a smart car tech maker.
Apart from traditional car companies, tech companies also see massive potential in the segment, and hence, they are investing massive amounts. Tech names like Apple, Google and Baidu are making big bets, including developing autonomous cars and autonomous driving tech of their own, and acquiring outside talent to complement their strategy. Qualcomm is also in the process of acquiring NXP Semiconductors NV, a global leader in automotive-grade chips, in a deal worth $47 billion.