Samsung Electronics is expected to rev up efforts to expand its presence in the automotive semiconductor market by partnering with Hyundai Motor. Currently, the global automotive semiconductor market is dominated by NXP of the Netherlands, Renesas of Japan, and Infineon of Germany. Industry insiders say that automotive semiconductors will be one of the items that Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor will cooperate on after a closed meeting between Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong and Hyundai Motor Group senior vice chairman Chung Eui-sun on May 13.
Samsung Electronics has been upgrading its automotive semiconductor technology since the launch of the Exynos Auto, an automotive application processor (AP) brand, and the Isocell Auto, an image sensor brand, in 2018. Tesla's autonomous driving tool, “Hardware (HW) 3,” launched in April 2019, was loaded with Samsung Electronics' Exynos. Samsung has been supplying the Exynos Auto 8890 to Audi since May 2019. As Samsung Electronics is rapidly advancing neural processing unit (NPU) technology, which is optimized for artificial intelligence (AI) computation, its vehicle AP technology is expected to be further upgraded through cooperation with Hyundai Motor Group.
Market analysts say that demand for DRAMs for self-driving cars are also on the sharp rise. For example, the Tesla HW3 was loaded with a 16 GB DRAM that is 64 times larger than a 256 MB DRAM loaded on the HW1 launched five years ago. In particular, as the autonomous driving function will be upgraded in the future, experts say that more DRAMs for central processing units (CPUs) will be needed. Accordingly, automotive DRAMs will emerge as a major item in the semiconductor industry after DRAMs for mobile devices, servers and PCs.
Demand for DRAMs will also increase with the diffusion of edge computing technology, which processes large-volume data related to autonomous vehicles at base stations rather than at central servers. Base stations are expected to be loaded with high-performance DRAMs.
In connection with this, market watchers speculate that Samsung Electronics will take over automotive semiconductor companies with its cash assets of 113 trillion won. Qualcomm, the No. 1 mobile AP market leader, made an attempt to acquire NXP in 2016 by spending US$44 billion to no avail. Samsung Electronics is also reportedly interested in acquiring NXP.