Electronics and Semiconductors

Samsung Joins Autonomous Driving Fray

14 December 2015

As part of its annual reorganization announcement, Samsung Electronics dropped an interesting nugget of information that it had established an automotive components team and its initial focus would be developing semiconductors for use in automotive infotainment systems and autonomous driving vehicles.

Samsung is the latest heavyweight electronics company to get behind that self-driving car craze. Google and Apple have been in development of autonomous vehicles for years and have been active in developing APIs that would be used by automotive OEMs to connect smartphones and displays in vehicles.

In October, fellow Korean electronics giant LG Electronics signed on with General Motors to provide key components for GM’s electric vehicle foray. Nvidia has been working on its own graphics processing units (GPUs) for deep learning and recently announced its new machine learning devices. Nvidia has also been working with Audi on its zFaz platform for autonomous driving.

Intel, Renesas, Texas Instruments, Freescale/NXP and STMicroelectronics are also in the mix. And field programmable gate array (FPGA) vendors Xilinx and Altera (now Intel) are expected to play here too, thanks to the high processing parallelism of their solutions. ARM and IBM are very active in machine learning, although they are not specifically focusing on automotive yet.

With its strong ties to virtually every aspect of the electronics industry, it isn’t that much of a surprise to see Samsung enter the market for automotive components and more specifically the opportunities that might afford it by jumping on the self-driving car bandwagon. It also has the clout and might to challenge many of these other vendors that are already entrenched in the market.

The move into automotive may also be one of necessity; Samsung has been under increased pressure and competition in the smartphone race. The Korean company has been actively seeking new businesses in order to compensate for the sagging sales in the mobile device market.

Samsung says the automotive operations will be headed up by Jonghwan Park as executive VP and will be overseen by Oh-Hyun Kwon, vice chairman of Samsung.

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