Samsung Electronics is making an investment in succession to secure autonomous vehicle technology. LG Electronics, which has been relatively passive in making an outward investment, is also sparing no expense to make an investment in driverless car business. Accordingly, the competition between the two electronics companies to secure self-driving car technology is expected to be intense further.
According to industry sources on November 1, Samsung Catalyst, an early stage VC fund from Samsung Strategy & Innovation Center (SSIC), and SoftBank Ventures Korea, an affiliate of SoftBank’s Korean holding company, jointly invested US$73 million (81.6 billion won) in Innoviz Technologies, an Israeli startup that’s building solid-state lidar technology for autonomous cars. Unlike radar that detects an object with frequency, lidar technology harnesses laser-powered light to measure the distance, speed and physical property of an object. It is a crucial technology for enabling autonomous vehicles to sense their surroundings
Founded by military technicians in Israel in January last year, Innoviz Technologies has now raised a total of US$82 million (91.43 billion won) from Delphi Automotive PLC and Magna International Inc. The two companies are planning to start supplying related development platform samples in January next year and mass producing lidar devices for level three to five autonomous vehicles from 2019.
Samsung Electronics established a US$300 million (340 billion won) Automotive Innovation Fund in September and immediately announced to make an investment worth nearly 100 billion won (US$89.69 million) in TTTech, an Austria-based developer of Autonomous/Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The company also created a new strategic business unit (SBU) in charge of self-driving technology and ADAS under the Harman’s connected car division, making an effort to secure autonomous vehicle technology.
LG Electronics, which has been focusing on automotive application component business, has also made an investment in driverless car related business in the United States. University of Michigan announced on October 31 that 11 companies, such as LG Electronics, Delphi, DENSO Corp., Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Honda Motor Co., are investing a total of US$11 million (1.23 billion won) in its autonomous vehicle testing and research facility, Mcity. Over a span of three years, the companies are each committing US$1 million (1.12 billion won) to support Mcity and its programs.
Market watchers believe that LG Electronics will be able to expand the exchange of self-driving car related technologies as the company entered the Mcity Leadership Circle participated in by not only the Michigan state government but also global leading automakers, including Ford and GM.
In addition, LG Electronics is seeking to acquire Austrian automotive lighting system firm ZKW Group with an investment of more than 1 trillion won (US$896.86 million). An official from LG Electronics said, “There is nothing to make an official announcement regarding the acquisition of ZKW.”