Samsung creates US$300m fund for self-driving auto push

The world's No. 1 chip and handset maker, Samsung has embarked on a new autonomous driving business by announcing the creation of a new fund Wednesday. The fund's first undisclosed investment will be in Austria's TTTech, a company specializing in safety, networking, and software integration for ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) and automated driving platforms.

Samsung's two biggest rivals have also moved into the connected auto market over the past year, at greater cost: Intel Corp paid US$15.3bil (RM64.28bil) last month to acquire Mobileye, the current market leader in collision-detection ADAS software, while Qualcomm Inc is seeking regulatory approval for its US$47bil (RM197.23bil) deal to buy NXP Semiconductors NV, the world's biggest maker of automotive-grade chips.

The South Korean technology giant established a $300 million fund - Samsung Automotive Innovation Fund - that will exclusively focus on connected vehicle and autonomous driving technologies, the company said in a press release Thursday. Absmeier will retain his current job as head of smart machines for the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Centre in Silicon Valley.

Auto industry veteran John Absmeier, who before joining Samsung in 2015 ran a pioneering autonomous driving programme at U.S. tier 1 auto supplier Delphi Automotive Plc, has been named senior vice president of the Samsung automotive business unit.

Today's news comes just two weeks after Samsung secured a self-driving vehicle permit in California, pitting it against rivals from the smartphone realm such as Google and Apple, which are also working on autonomous driving technology in the state. Samsung has indicated that a 2020 time horizon is reasonable for its strategy to come together, he said.

In the meantime, Samsung said its connected vehicle and in-car infotainment affiliate Harman has recently set up a new team, called Strategic Business Unit, which is dedicated exclusively to autonomous driving technologies and related driver assistance systems.

"There is already a high demand for ADAS solutions, and that demand is rapidly growing with the advancements in connected cars and autonomous driving", added Dinesh Paliwal, president and CEO of Harman.

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