South Korean chip-manufacturers are all set for the self-driving cars

For a car to truly drive itself without user control, it needs to be continuously aware of surroundings and make split-second decisions in any situation via the vehicle’s autonomous driving system.

As a self-driving car’s system must be based on complex data sets to navigate the road and electronics play an increasingly key role for automobiles, it presents a potentially fertile ground for South Korean chipmakers, and they seem to have realized this.

Samsung Electronics Co. and SK hynix Inc. — the world’s two biggest memory chip makers — have been tapping opportunities in the fledgling automotive semiconductor market, as part of efforts to diversify their core business away from traditional DRAM and NAND chips, and weather cyclical industry downturns.

In 2018, the automotive chip was the fastest growing segment of semiconductors, marking the third-largest end-market for semiconductor applications, with US$53.9 billion in sales, or 11.5 percent of the total, according to the World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS).

Market watchers say a more widespread adoption of Level 5 vehicles, which can drive without a human behind wheel, could accelerate the demand for memory chips even further.

Samsung has been promoting its Exynos Auto solutions to realize a future where passengers can enjoy videos and answer video calls, while autonomous vehicles navigate the best routes to drive them safely to their destinations.

Its solutions include high-performing chips that power in-car systems with instant data access speeds, store high-definition maps for autonomous driving, transmit data captured from vehicle sensors with low power consumption and processors for artificial intelligence’s deep learning algorithms with ultra-high bandwidth.

To expand applications in next-generation cars, Samsung has been collaborating with German automaker Audi since 2015 to make its Exynos processors and advanced memory solutions available in its luxury vehicles.

Its Exynos Auto 8890 processor will be used in the in-vehicle infotainment system for Audi’s A4, which enters the European market in the fall, to power its multimedia interface, vehicle status control and navigation display, the company said earlier.

While its processing chips serve as the artificial “brains” for self-driving cars, Samsung said it is also working on various non-memory chips for cameras and sensors to give them “eyes” to expand its automotive solution portfolio.