Although much of the attention on self-driving cars has focused mainly on Google and to some extent other auto manufacturers that are jumping in the race, Samsung recently launched a new division in hopes of playing a key role in the new market. Sources indicate Samsung has created a task force within their System LSI unit to focus on development of processor chips to be used in self-driving vehicles.
As the market for mobile devices has matured over the years and new form factors, like wearables, have arisen, one move we are witnessing is specialization in processor chips. For example, a Snapdragon 820 needed to drive a flagship smartphone may not be ideal for an Android Wear based smartwatch with a small display, fewer sensors, and a need for longer battery life despite a smaller battery being present. The same will likely be true for self-driving vehicles and the processor chips that will power these new vehicles.
Samsung apparently recognizes this potential need in the supply chain and is working to position themselves to be the default supplier for these chips. The new task force is composed of team members that have worked on non-memory chips along with image sensors.
This is not Samsung’s first move relative to the autonomous vehicle market. This past December the company setup an automotive parts division under the leadership of Kwon Oh-hyun, one of the company’s three co-CEOs who is in charge of the semiconductor business division. That unit has a deal in place to be the sole battery supplier for BMW electric and hybrid vehicles as well as supplying chips for upcoming Audi models.
Some of the technologies that Samsung may be optimizing chips for include driving assistant systems, 3D mapping and machine learning. Normally Samsung’s research center efforts yield commercially viable solutions in five to ten years.