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Samsung’s self-driving cars cleared for testing

May 02,2017
Samsung Electronics has been cleared to test its self-driving car technology on actual Korean roads.

The Ministry of Land, Transport, and Infrastructure said Monday it has approved Samsung Electronics to test a self-driving car equipped with deep-learning technology developed by its own research team.

It is the first time an electronics company in Korea has received an approval, according to the ministry.

“Samsung Electronics’ self-driving car is a renovated domestic vehicle that is equipped with diverse sensors including Lidar,” the ministry said in a press release.

“It also utilizes artificial intelligence, or deep learning algorithms, that make inferences of its own about road situations and obstacles,” the ministry added.

The ministry said it has issued 19 approvals, including the one for Samsung, for self-driving cars since 2016.

Hyundai Motor was the first to receive government approval in March 2016, followed by diverse institutions including auto parts makers Hyundai Mobis and Mando, as well as Seoul National and Hanyang universities.

Naver Labs, an R&D arm of search-engine operator Naver, was cleared in February, the first IT company in Korea to be able to test run its self-driving technology. It participated in the Seoul Motor Show in April to bolster its foothold in the burgeoning industry.

Samsung Electronics’ self-driving car initiative started in 2015 when it established a team dedicated to developing electronics parts for future vehicles. It said then that the company was interested in developing infotainment and internet-connected car technology. Samsung acquired an American automotive component supplier Harman International last year for 9.4 trillion won ($8.3 billion).

The smartphone maker has made it clear that the company is not interested in manufacturing a car. It said it wants to focus on developing solutions and auto parts necessary for future cars connected to the internet.

“Samsung Electronics plans to develop algorithm, sensors and computer modules that will make a self-driving car that is reliable even in the worst weather conditions,” the company said Monday.

The Transport Ministry has been easing regulations for testing self-driving cars. In March, it allowed autonomous cars without a steering wheel or pedal to be tested on roads. It also reduced the number of people required inside test cars from two to one.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]