Samsung sets up United States dollars 300 mln automotive investment fund

The autonomous driving unit will compete on everything from driving algorithms to systems integration says Harman’s CEO Dinesh Paliwal

While Samsung might not seem the most obvious company to have a sizable automotive-related fund, there are more than a few connections.

Earlier this year, Samsung acquired Harman, an American company that produces auto navigation systems and auto technology that will allow multiple vehicles to communicate with each other.

Meanwhile, HARMAN will unveil automotive cybersecurity solutions co-developed with IBM at the Frankfurt Motor Show in Germany without its own booth. That will include an advanced-driver assistance platform with open software that allows outside engineers to build products off of it - a shot at Mobileye, which was acquired by Intel Corp. this year in a move that mirrored Samsung's automotive leap. The firm is "excited to play a leadership role in supporting and shaping the future of smarter, more connected vehicles", said Young Sohn, a chief strategy officer at Samsung Electronics, in a statement.

The spinout will use the money to accelerate the growth of its safety technology for autonomous driving and operations.

"In partnership with [manufacturers] and start-ups, we will make the driver and passenger experience safer, more convenient, and more enjoyable". Seeing as road injuries are one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide according to the World Health Organization, safety technologies are very much needed, but it will be just as important for legislation to keep up with these new technologies and the unique issues they raise, if at the very least to ensure consumer confidence. In the USA alone, the most recent data suggests that there are more than 35,000 fatal crashes each year.

In 2015, Samsung's venture investment arm led a $6.5 million funding round for a connected auto device developed by Dallas-based Vinli Inc. The fund will focus on areas such as machine vision and AI, connectivity, vehicle safety, and smart sensors; its initial investment will be in TTTech, an Austria-based networked safety controls specialist. “This strategic business unit demonstrates Samsungs and HARMANs commitment to answer that call – to be the definitive partner for seamless and integrated technologies. The fund would be headed by a senior Samsung official, John Absmeier who previously acted as VP Smart Machines at the Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center.

As its first investment from the fund, Samsung has chose to invest 75 million euros (US$89.34 million) in TTTech, an Austria-based firm which develops automated piloted driving systems. Together, the two groups will focus on developing technologies that underlie self-driving systems, including high-performance computers, sensors and artificial intelligence.

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