Report: Samsung’s Self-Driving Unit Isn’t Developing Cars

September 7, 2017 - Written By Dominik Bosnjak

The self-driving unit of Samsung Electronics isn’t developing actual vehicles, industry sources close to the tech giant said on Thursday. Instead, the South Korean company is said to be working on “open platform” technologies meant to enable autonomous vehicles and is planning on leaving the creation of cars to traditional automakers and other firms with whom it may partner in the future. The latest report on the matter comes shortly after the Seoul-based original equipment manufacturer (OEM) obtained a permit to test self-driving vehicles on public roads in California. The firm previously confirmed it applied for a license with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) but stated that it’s currently focused on self-driving software and not finished products, which is in line with the Thursday report on its driverless vehicle endeavors.

Samsung also obtained a similar permit in its home country earlier this year, with the Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) allowing it to test autonomous cars in May. The company’s domestic efforts on that front are supported by Hyundai which confirmed it’s collaborating with Samsung on self-driving solutions, though it’s currently unclear what exactly does their partnership entail. Another fact suggesting that Samsung’s is still primarily interested in self-driving software is its choice of units it tasked with autonomous driving endeavors; the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology and its parent Samsung Strategy Innovation Center are presently the only two divisions of the firm that are committing significant resources to this emerging segment, and both are specialized in long-term system development and not product commercialization.

The company’s recent acquisition of Harman International Industries may not be directly related to its self-driving efforts but is still part of Samsung’s overall connected cars vision, with the company previously stating that its artificial intelligence (AI) assistant Bixby will soon be integrated into Harman’s vehicle infotainment services. The same can be said for the tech giant’s ARTIK Cloud Internet of Things (IoT) platform which is already being tested by a number of traditional automakers and is expected to be commercialized in the medium term. While the company may still shift its focus to developing proprietary self-driving vehicles in the future, it is unlikely to make such a move in the next several years, according to some industry watchers.