Samsung’s self-driving cars just got approved for public roads

The race to produce a self-driving car just got a little more crowded.

Samsung Electronics Co. is taking its autonomous vehicle program out of the shop and onto the street, following a decision by the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to allow the company to test its sensor-laden vehicles on public roads.

According to the Korea Herald, the approval was announced on May 1 and is preceded by the Ministry’s decision to permit nearly 20 other companies to similarly test various autonomous vehicles.

“Self-driving cars call for the collaboration of various cutting-edge technologies from the automobile, artificial intelligence and information communication sectors,” the ministry said in a statement picked up by the Herald.

Little is known about the Samsung cars themselves — other than the fact that they are actually Hyundais. That’s because in contrast to some other makers of autonomous vehicles, like the rapidly expanding Tesla, Samsung decided not to build its own cars from the ground up. Rather, in the same way that Apple layers its self-driving technology on Lexus SUVs, Samsung appears to have gone the route of affixing its sensors to third-party cars.

Interestingly, Hyundai Motor Co. was granted approval to test its own self-driving cars on public South Korean streets in February of 2016 — though presumably this is an unrelated effort.

But back to Samsung. Apparently not content to battle it out with just smartphones, Samsung’s push into self-driving tech puts it on yet another collision course with competitor Apple. Apple’s self-driving car program has been approved for testing on California public roads by the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles, and what is believed to be an Apple car was recently spotted in the wild.

Still, don’t hold your breath for a demolition derby with actual Apple and Samsung cars. As Slash Gear notes, Samsung plans to focus on supplying self-driving car manufacturers with essential autonomous-vehicle components. This means it’s unlikely that the company sees a future where Samsung-branded cars are picking kids up from soccer practice or driving seniors around town.

And so while we may indeed be only two years away from being able to nap in self-driving vehicles, don’t expect it to be a Samsung car taking you for that late-night ride. However, the decision to test the company’s self-driving systems on South Korean public roads means that Samsung technology might very well soon play a vital role in making sure you arrive safely at your destination.

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