The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently updated the list of participants in its Autonomous Vehicle Tester Program, revealing that Samsung Electronics is now allowed to test self-driving cars on Californian roads. A spokesperson for the South Korean original equipment manufacturer (OEM) later acknowledged that turn of events, noting how Samsung still isn't planning on manufacturing its own driverless vehicles and is instead looking to further advance its related sensor and artificial intelligence (AI) efforts associated with self-driving solutions.
Samsung's DMV-issued approval for testing autonomous cars comes four months after the company received a similar license in its home country from the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Back then, the largest business conglomerate in the Far Eastern country issued a similar statement, revealing that it's looking to test some of its creations in partnership with Hyundai with whom the company developed a number of self-driving solutions, but without providing more details on the matter. As Samsung still doesn't seem to be pursuing a standalone self-driving program, it's understood that the Seoul-based tech giant will also be running some related tests in California with at least one partner who's presumed to be a traditional automaker. It remains unclear who that partner is and when Samsung might start testing its self-driving technologies in California where a number of U.S. tech giants like Waymo and Uber are already pursuing similar goals.
Apart from Hyundai, another potential self-driving partner for Samsung's efforts in California is Renault, with the two already co-owning Busan, South Korea-based Renault-Samsung Motors. Samsung's recent purchase of Harman International Industries may not have any immediate implications for the company's self-driving ambitions in the U.S. and any other part of the world, though it still suggests that Samsung is already planning to be part of a connected vehicle future which most industry watchers believe is inevitable. It remains to be seen how Samsung will now opt to approach this emerging segment which still warrants significant investments that may not be approved by the chaebol which is currently without a leader, with Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee reportedly being in a comatose state since 2014 and his son and Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong recently receiving a first-instance verdict which sentenced him to five years in prison for bribing government officials and other chargest related to a 2015 merger of Samgun C&T and Cheil Industries.