Samsung accelerates self-driving car tech plans

Tech giant won't build its own cars but wants to provide the tech inside them.

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Autonomous cars on a road with visible connection

Samsung has accelerated its involvement in automative technology but says it won’t be building its own self-driving cars.

The tech giant has set up a $300m fund that will invest in connected car and autonomous technologies, such as smart sensors, machine vision and other forms of artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, connectivity, safety systems, security, and privacy.

The fund’s first investment is $75m in TTTech, a networking and safety controls company that is working on the complex software integration for automated driving platforms.

Samsung has previously made investments in other automotive startups: including AImotive and Renovo for automated driving; Quanergy, TetraVue, and Oculii for sensors; Autotalks and Valens for connectivity; and Graphcore for high-performance computing.

Samsung has already clearly signalled its interest in this area, through its acquisition earlier this year of infotainment and connected car technology company Harman for $8bn.

Samsung said that Harman has now set up a new business unit that works on autonomous and advanced driver assistance systems.

Samsung has also secured licenses for on-road testing of autonomous driving software and hardware, which is under development in South Korea and California in the US. But the firm said it will not enter the car-manufacturing business, and will instead work with car makers on their projects.

That hands-off approach seems to be part of a trend; while tech companies may have started their self-driving car projects with the aim of building their own vehicles, many seem to have changed direction.

Apple, which has long been rumoured to be working its own vehicle, seems to have stepped back from that, and Google has similarly emphasised that it does not now want to build its own cars, preferring to offer the smart systems that will run the vehicles built by others.