South Korea’s electronics giant Samsung Electronics Co. is stepping up its efforts to solidify its position in the automotive electronics industry through aggressive investment in smart car technology.
According to multiple sources in the industry on Wednesday, Samsung Group’s unit Samsung Venture Investment Corp. invested in nuTonomy Inc., a venture that develops self-driving car software based on robotics, together with Signal Ventures Ltd. and Fontinalis Partners LLC and others. Following the successful fundraising campaign, the venture has raked in about $3.6 million (4.3 billion won) worth of funds in total, according to the industry sources.
Cambridge, Massachusetts-based nuTonomy is a spin-off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), headed by Karl Iagnemma who has led the Robotic Mobility Group at MIT. With the investment, nuTonomy will focus on developing software that could enable an autonomous car to drive even in busy city traffic conditions, which is yet to be achieved by Google Inc. with its self-driving car project that proved to be a success on a highway.
As Samsung Venture Investment mostly receives seed money from Samsung Electronics, its investment in startups is often considered the Korean tech giant’s investment. In particular, its investment in nuTonomy has drawn more attention as it is the first investment made by Samsung Electronics since the Korean electronics company announced its foray into the automotive parts industry with the launch of the automotive electronics division late last year.
The Korea’s electronics mammoth is sparing no effort on the automotive component business in and out of the company. It has recently invited Sunwoo Myoung-ho, professor at Automotive Engineering Department at Hanyang University in Seoul, for a lecture at a directors’ meeting last Wednesday. He has been President of the World Electric Vehicle Association (WEVA) since 2013. Moreover, Samsung Electronics has been increasing investment in self-driving technology startups, such as Quanergy Systems Inc., Vinli Inc. and Seeo Inc. Quanergy Systems develops a light detection ranging (LIDAR) sensor for autonomous vehicles and robots, while Vinli is a startup that designs connected-car systems and Seeo develops automotive batteries.
Meanwhile, Fontinalis Partners, founded in 2009, is an investment firm that invests in companies developing technologies enabling driving innovation across next-generation mobility. One of its founders is Bill Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, the very founder of Ford Motor Company.
By Lee Seung-hoon
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