South Korean electronics giant Samsung has announced a new focus on developing driverless cars and infotainment systems in its attempt to compete with domestic rival LG in the automobile arena.
The chip and smartphone leader has placed executive vice president Park Jong Hwan at the front of the push. He will manage the project which will combine efforts from various technology units including battery maker Samsung SDI, and software service provider branch Samsung SDS.
A further move to support the development will see the launch of a specialist audio-visual (AV) business unit within the company’s visual display division.
The automobile industry presents a lucrative market for electronics firms, with Apple, Panasonic, LG and Samsung all fighting for their share. For Samsung in particular, the sector is an opportunity to make up for declining television sales, and a slowing smartphone business which is struggling to compete with fresher, cheaper models in China and India.
Experts have commented on the huge potential in the automobile space – advanced semiconductors, car audio and sensor systems accounting for around 30% of the entire connected car market. Research group Gartner has cited that the global automobile semiconductor market will grow to around $32.7bn (approx. £22bn) next year.
In November, Samsung announced a partnership with Volkswagen’s Audi to supply memory chips for the German manufacturer’s dashboard, infotainment systems and advanced driver assistance software.
South Korean rival LG confirmed in October that it has joined with General Motors to provide 11 systems for its new electric car, the Chevrolet Bolt EV, including electric-drive motors, chargers, electric compressors and batteries. Expanding on an existing deal, the two firms had agreed in 2011 to co-design and engineer electric vehicles.
LG’s chemical unit has also partnered with a number of other top carmakers such as Hyundai and Ford to sell batteries for their electric cars. For the September quarter, LG reported a $406mn gain in revenue from automobile components. Samsung is yet to publish figures for its vehicle parts business.
Today’s announcement comes following the company’s annual management reshuffle, which saw JK Shin, head of its mobile division, replaced by DJ Koh last week.