The race to build self-driving cars is heating up, with Google (Waymo), Tesla, Uber, Lyft, Ford, GM (Cruise), and others all vying to build the first reliable self-driving system.
Now add Korean electronics giant Samsung to that list—with a twist. Its first client could be one of the major competitors in the business, Tesla.
Tesla once had a partner in developing self-driving software, Israel's Mobileye, when it first launched its Autopilot system to great fanfare in 2014.
After a widely reported fatal accident in Florida tied to the company's original Version 1 Autopilot system, which used the Mobileye hardware, Tesla has been on its own to develop the next-generation Autopilot 2 hardware.
In October, the company introduced new software that enabled full on-ramp to off-ramp self-driving in the system it calls Navigate on Autopilot, on existing Autopilot chips. CEO Elon Musk has since tweeted that with the upcoming faster chips, the system will be able to handle commuting from home to work without human intervention.
Industry sources told the Investors Business Times that Samsung has been on a hiring spree for electronics engineers with automotive experience.
Musk announced in October that the company would roll out new, faster chips in the spring that will enable the company's long-promised Full Self-Driving Mode features, which many customers have pre-paid for. He tweeted that the new chip will be 50 to 200 times faster than the current hardware.
IBT sources say that Samsung has already begun assembling the chips expected to be rolled out to the Model 3 in March.
Central to Musk's plan to have Navigate on Autopilot work in more situations and on surface streets is having more drivers use the system and feed driving data back to Tesla's artificial intelligence servers. If a new chip is also on horizon, however, more data may not be enough.
Samsung has denied the rumors that it is forming a new self-driving car division.
The insiders noted that Samsung's practice is to line up a leading customer before launching new business lines.
With the Consumer Electronics Show on the horizon in Las Vegas early next month, it wouldn't be surprising to see the electronics giant introduce such a system there.
Green Car Reports reached out to Tesla for comment on this story, but had not heard back before publication.