Samsung Creates $300M Fund to Innovate Automotive Tech

Samsung Electronics has formed a $300 million Automotive Innovation Fund focused on technology for new cars. The South Korean electronics company previously showed interest in the automotive industry, spending $8 billion to buy auto parts supplier Harman International. According to Samsung, its first investment from the new fund — €75 million ($89 million) — was to partner with Austria-based TTTech, a company that protects the real-time computer systems used in smart vehicles. Audi is another major investor in TTTech.

The Wall Street Journal notes that the automotive arena is “a potential windfall for Samsung’s displays and semiconductor businesses.” Samsung took another step into automotive by winning “regulatory approval in South Korea and California to test cars using its self-driving technology on public roads.”

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The company will not manufacturer its own vehicles but rather plans to develop and sell self-driving software to automakers. So far, it has tested “its deep-learning algorithms and other software onto a vehicle made by Hyundai Motor Co.”

The fund, says WSJ, “will target bets on smart sensors, machine vision and artificial intelligence that get used by connected cars.” Samsung Electronics chief strategy officer Young Sohn said the company is “excited to play a leadership role in supporting and shaping the future of smarter, more connected vehicles.”

This new fund comes in the wake of the bribery conviction of the company’s vice chair/Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong. “Three days after Mr. Lee’s conviction, Samsung announced a fresh $2.3 billion investment in semiconductors.”

VentureBeat reports that, “Samsung also announced a tie-up with its Harman subsidiary to create a new entity it’s calling the Autonomous/ADAS Strategic Business Unit (SBU),” aimed at “developing innovations for next-generation, smart, connected vehicles.” It also notes that, in addition to safety, TTTech specializes in “networking, and software integration for ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) and automated driving platforms.”

“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 Harman president/chief executive Dinesh Paliwal.

VentureBeat also lists Samsung’s other previous investments in the automotive industry, including Seeo, which develops rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles; StoreDot, which builds instant-charging batteries for electric vehicles; and Vinli, which is creating an app ecosystem for cars.

Samsung also acquired Magna International, a battery business, in 2015, and has filed for patents in the U.S. and South Korea for electric vehicle technology.