Samsung has a $300 million fund aimed at smarter cars

Rachel England

Samsung is planning to get ahead in the connected car market with a new $300 million fund focused entirely on auto-related startups and technologies. The Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund has been earmarked for smart sensors, machine vision, artificial intelligence, safety solutions and more, and will help even the playing field between the company and its biggest rivals. Intel paid $15.3 billion last month to acquire Mobileye, while Qualcomm is currently in the process of buying automotive-grade chip maker NXP Semiconductors. Samsung's first major investment with the fund -- to the tune of $89 million -- will be in networking and safety control company TTTech. The company has provided automotive technology to a number of manufacturers, including Boeing for its 787 Dreamliner, NASA for its Orion Spacecraft, and more pertinently, Audi for its A8.

Samsung's own recent acquisition, Harman, is also taking steps to establish itself in the automotive market. The company, best known for its consumer audio speakers, wants to build on the 65 percent of sales it already derives from its automotive arm (for satnavs and on-board entertainment systems), and has concurrently launched a new autonomous strategic business unit (SBU). The Harman SBU will work closely with the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center Smart Machines team to pull together consumer electronics and autotechnology, and to develop key technologies for safer, smarter, connected vehicles.

The allocation of these resources and renewed focus on the automotive sector is designed to give Samsung the confidence to enter what is becoming an increasingly crowded market -- and vehicle technology is not the company's mainstay. But as Dinesh Paliwal, President and CEO of Harman, says: "There is already a high demand for ADAS [advanced driver assistance systems] solutions, and that demand is rapidly growing with the advancements in connected cars and autonomous driving." Samsung wants in on the action, and is happy to put its money where its mouth is.


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