According to the Wall Street Journal, Samsung's move into the automotive components business comes at a time when its smartphone arm is suffering. The company recently moved mobile chief JK Shin out of his office in favor of a younger, hipper replacement in the hope of reviving its flagging profits. Of course, that may turn out to be a fools errand, given that the mobile industry's boom years seem to be at an end.
On the upside, self-driving cars share more than a few components with smartphones, so it makes sense that Samsung's know-how would transfer across. Expertise in battery technology, GPS, mobile computing, wireless chips, touch screens and similar tech are all found in autonomous vehicles, so it should be fairly simple. In addition, by producing the components for other companies, there's a smaller element of risk than if it attempted to go it alone straight out of the gate.
Those with longer memories will also recall that Samsung used to actually make cars in the '90s, although the project was ill-fated. The company launched Samsung Motors in 1994, but by the time it had begun to produce vehicles, the 1997 Asian financial crisis forced it into a sale. The division was picked up by Renault, although Samsung maintains a 19.9 percent stake in the firm, as well as control over use of the name Samsung.