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Samsung set to enter race to develop self-driving cars

South Korean conglomerate Samsung Electronics has announced that it intends to become a major player in the global race to develop autonomous driving technology. It has been claimed that Samsung will formally outline its strategy for the automotive sector at the Frankfurt Motor Show later this week.

Reports emerging from local media agencies in South Korea suggest that Samsung has established an automotive strategic business unit for autonomous and advanced driver assistance services (ADAS). In addition to this, it has been further disclosed that it will invest around $300m in automotive start-ups and technology centered on self-driving and autonomy.

Samsung Electronics President and Chief Strategy Officer, Young Sohn, admitted that Samsung has been quietly plotting its strategy to enter the autonomous race for the last number of months, but said the timing was right for the Seoul-based firm to make its intentions known.

Sohn said, "It's time to communicate our intent to enter the autonomous driving market. Samsung has been incubating this business for quite a while." Samsung's President also outlined that its considerable assets generated from its standing as the world's biggest manufacturer of semiconductors by revenue, as well as its success in TV's, displays and memory chips gives it confidence to enter a market that is already nearing saturation point.

Samsung's two closet rivals Intel and Qualcomm have both recently announced their moves into the self-driving sphere. Intel acquired Israeli firm Mobileye last month for a reported $15.3 billion in an effort to accelerate the development of a software platform designed to enhance safety in self-driving cars. Whilst Qualcomm is currently pending regulatory approval to procced with a $47 billion-dollar deal to buy NXP Semiconductors NV, who are the largest makers of automotive-grade chips in the world.

It has been revealed that automotive industry veteran John Absmeir will head up Samsung's new automotive business unit. He was responsible for forming a pioneering autonomous driving program at US tier 1 auto-parts supplier Delphi Automotive. He's been with the South Korean conglomerate since 2015, and will retain his current position as head of ‘smart machines' for Samsung Strategy at its Innovation Center in Silicon Valley.

Sohn added that its new Autonomous/ADAS business unit will attract hundreds of engineers in addition to those Samsung has already  started working on autonomous driving technologies. Samsung was also given approval to test its self-driving pilot projects in South Korea and California after acquiring the licenses required to do so.