The symbolic get-together of the heads of Samsung Electronics and Hyundai Motor is fueling hopes of a deepening partnership in smart mobility between the world’s top chipmaker and Korea`s household car brand.
Hyundai Motor Group executive vice chairman, Chung Eui-sun, on Wednesday discussed with Samsung Electronics vice chairman, Jay Y. Lee, a potential partnership in the development of all-solid-state batteries at a factory of Samsung SDI, a Samsung subsidiary that makes batteries for electric vehicles and smartphones.
Industry observers believe the collaboration could go far beyond batteries to include driverless cars and other future mobility technologies.
Korea’s top two conglomerates are said to have already started discussing joint development of autonomous vehicles last year, according to industry sources.
They are said to be aiming for level 3 autonomous technology, just one level short of full automation, where the vehicles can drive themselves without human interaction under certain circumstances.
The sources say the companies are thinking about working together on an advanced driver-assistance system, a critical component to achieve semi-autonomous technology. Samsung Electronics already has experience mass producing image sensors and is now trying to advance into automotive sensors, which need to pass a more stringent durability test.
Another auto industry source said the talks were still at a very preliminary level but suggested they could accelerate after the Wednesday meeting as it marks a departure for Hyundai Motor, which has so far worked far more closely with overseas partners like Infineon Technologies.
Opportunities for an alliance are particularly ripe now that Samsung Electronics is stepping up its automotive semiconductor business. The world’s largest chipmaker released its automotive processor, Exynos Auto, in 2018. Last year, it started supplying Exynos Auto V9 to Audi to power its in-vehicle infotainment system.
By furthering ties with Samsung, Hyundai Motor could also tap into U.S. car infotainment and audio company Harman, which Samsung acquired for $8 billion in 2017. Samsung unveiled its first digital cockpit, developed jointly with Harman, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year. Samsung and Harman’s 5G telematics control unit, scheduled for mass production in 2021, is also said to be fitted into BMW’s electric vehicles.
Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors are reportedly using Samsung processors, but at a limited volume.
Still, the automakers have been trying to forge a relationship with the technology giant. When Hyundai Motor demonstrated its 5G-connected autonomous driving vehicle at an event in 2018, it was Samsung Electronics that provided the 5G network equipment. Kia Motors also signed an agreement with Samsung to build an integrated mobile app that allows drivers to customize their car settings via Galaxy phones.