Samsung revs up its autonomous driving efforts

Samsung Electronics has announced a new $300 million investment fund dedicated to the automotive industry as well as a strategic partnership with TTTech.

This move echoes a similar one from Ericsson last week and seems to be part of a broader push by technology companies to grab as big a piece as possible of the nascent smart/connected/autonomous vehicle market.

Samsung, of course, dropped $8 billion less than a year ago on Harman, which has a big in-car infotainment business. Against that $300 million is a relative drop in the ocean, but this is more of a VC play, presumably with the aim of owning future autonomous car players at a relative discount.

In fact Samsung and Harman have jointly launched (not sure how that works) a new Autonomous/ADAS strategic initiative, which seems to take the form of a new business unit. On top of that Samsung has started a strategic partnership with German company TTTech, which is apparently big in robust networking and safety controls, especially in an IoT-ish way.

“During this period of extraordinary transformation in the automotive industry, we are excited to play a leadership role in supporting and shaping the future of smarter, more connected vehicles,” said Young Sohn, President and CSO of Samsung Electronics and Chairman of Harman. “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.”

“There is already a high demand for ADAS solutions, and that demand is rapidly growing with the advancements in connected cars and autonomous driving,” said Dinesh Paliwal, President and CEO of Harman. “This strategic business unit demonstrates Samsung’s and Harman’s commitment to answer that call – to be the definitive partner for seamless and integrated technologies.”

The TTTech partnership is also the first investment of the new fund, which seems a needlessly circuitous way of going about things. Among TT’s other investors is Audi. “We are very proud to have Samsung as an investor and partner in TTTech to create solutions for the next generation of highly integrated and data-intensive safety systems” said Georg Kopetz, Member of the Board at TTTech. “Samsung brings a breadth and a depth of technologies as well as an ecosystem of partners to accelerate development for level 2 to level 5 autonomous platforms.”

There’s a lot of speculative cash flowing from the tech sector into automotive these days. Pretty much all the semiconductor players seem to see it as a major source of future and the networking players seem to feel the same. But the automotive sector tends to move a fair bit slower than core tech, so they will need to be patient when it comes to ROI.

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