Samsung Electronics has announced the creation of a new business unit dedicated to developing products aimed at carmakers. However, aside from confirming that the new division will focus on the development of infotainment systems and autonomous driving technology, Samsung’s announcement was pretty short on detail.
The move has been expected for some time. Some of Samsung’s divisions have already been researching and developing in-car tech, such as Samsung Electro-Mechanics and its work with automotive camera modules, drowsiness detectors and wireless in-car charging.
Samsung also developed the OLED curving screen that debuted on the Audi Prologue concept at the 2014 LA Auto Show, and its Display unit has been working with BMW and supplier Continental, too. The firm’s battery arm has also been supplying lithium-ion cells to BMW for the i3 and i8 since 2009.
As for the driverless car space, it’s currently unknown whether Samsung is going to attempt to rival Google and Apple, and create its own autonomous vehicle, integrating its wide-reaching internet of things technology into one very smart mobile device, or just produce the tech that facilitates such a vehicle.
Now that the business unit that brings together its previously-scattered automotive tech has been announced, it’s likely that acquisitions are likely to follow, as Samsung attempts to get on terms with its competitors.
Samsung faces increasing competition, particularly to its highly-successful smartphone business. This challenge comes on two fronts – Apple at the top-end, and Chinese firms at the bottom – squeezing Samsung’s market position, and causing the firm to shuffle the management at its mobile division last week.
The automotive industry represents a potentially large business growth area for a company like Samsung, particularly in a time when new cars are increasingly feature-focussed, and consumers are more and more aware of the benefits of smart technology in their car.
However, it has some ground to make up on its big South Korean rival, LG Electronics, that announced a deal with General Motors earlier this year to supply components, including batteries for the Chevrolet Bolt EV to be launched at CES in January.
We await to see how Samsung brings together its currently disparate business elements into one automotive business, but we’re keen to see the result and the opportunities for designers the move creates.