Two of South Korea’s largest tech giants – Samsung and LG – are now said to be locked in a newfound competition to secure autonomous vehicle technologies. Reportedly, both companies have begun making new investments in various driverless car businesses in an attempt to secure and push forward the development of new technologies required for self-driving cars, and while Samsung appears to have a head start in this area, LG is reportedly looking into acquiring an Austrian automotive lighting system company with a 1 trillion won ($896 million) investment. The company made no official announcements in this regard, but nonetheless, industry watchers expect the competition between the two Korean tech giants to continue and intensify.
According to a report from BusinessKorea citing anonymous industry sources, Samsung Catalyst which was funded by Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center in 2013, together with SoftBank Ventures Korea recently made a joint investment in Israeli startup Innoviz Technologies. The startup is building solid-state LiDAR systems for self-driving cars, a technology that is crucial for level three to five autonomous vehicles, giving them the ability to map their surroundings. LiDAR stands for “Light Detection and Ranging” and unlike conventional radars, it relies on sensors and a pulsed laser to determine the travel time between the targeted object and the sensor itself. Innoviz Technologies also reportedly raised a total of 91.43 billion won ($82 million) from Magna International Inc. and Delphi Automotive PLC, both of which are reportedly planning to supply sample units in January 2018 before pushing the LiDAR system into mass production beginning in 2019. In addition, Samsung in September announced an investment of 100 billion won ($89 million) in TTTech, a developer of autonomous/advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) based in Austria, shortly after establishing a 340 billion won ($300 million) Automotive Innovation Fund.
Meanwhile, reports indicate that LG recently made a considerable investment in the United States, becoming one of the eleven companies to back the University of Michigan’s testing and research facility called Mcity, along with brands including General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Delphi, DENSO Corp. and Honda Motor Company. According to industry watchers, this move should place LG inside the Mcity Leadership Circle, which in turn should allow the company to intensify the exchange of autonomous technologies. Furthermore, a different report suggests that LG is looking into acquiring Austrian automotive lighting company ZKW Group with a trillion-won investment, though no official statements on the matter have yet been issued by the firm in any capacity.