Korean producer of telephones, TVs and other electronic goods, that growth in car parts would be enormous.
Samsung's current share of the global automotive component market: $5 billion.
Its new expectation: $20 billion.
"It's not much for Samsung, because we make $200 billion in revenue," Samsung Electronics President Young Sohn told Automotive News here last month. "But I'm hoping that we'll hit $20 billion by 2025."
Sohn believes automotive offers one of the best long-term growth opportunities for the company known for its Galaxy smartphones. The parent company might not have been too interested in automotive, given what Sohn characterizes as the industry's slow pace of technological evolution over the past few decades. "But things are really changing," said Sohn, who is also the company's chief strategy officer.
To reach Level 3 autonomous driving, Samsung believes manufacturers will have to install sensors, electronics and software worth $2,500 in new content per vehicle.
There are opportunities on top of that, he said. As vehicles are outfitted with more advanced features, the electrical architecture will have to adapt to handle the rapidly rising rate of data transmitted back and forth between the control units. Self-piloted cars that generate hundreds of megabytes of information now will soon generate hundreds of gigabytes of information, and eventually, terabytes of information when they can fully steer themselves.
"When you have your data increase by 100,000 times, then all of a sudden everything you do to compute has to change," Sohn said. "That's like having a small data center in your rear trunk, and it's a tremendous opportunity for IT companies like us."
Positioning itself to deliver all that new componentry is Samsung's next challenge. The company has an $80 billion-plus war chest available to make acquisitions if it chooses.
Samsung purchased Harman International Industries this year for one-tenth of that sum. Harman's technology can be found in 50 million cars on the road. Harman has now created an autonomous-drive strategic business unit within its Connected Car division that will be run by Samsung manager John Absmeier.
The company is investing several hundred million dollars to develop an open-source hardware platform for autonomous driving. Sohn believes it could be ready for production in 2021 and become an industry-standard system.
The approach would permit automakers to harmonize electronics and software products, and allow third parties to independently develop parts. Carmakers would be able to pick and choose best-in-class components from the market without having to redesign the vehicle, Sohn said.
Samsung last month demonstrated the system prototype, developed with TTTech of Austria, to automaker customers in Frankfurt. The device, which looks like a small, rugged laptop, can transfer six gigabits of data per second between dozens of electronic control units. But Samsung wants to boost its capacity. By comparison, data centers are capable of handling 200 gigabits using their Ethernet architecture.
Samsung is aiming higher on computer power. Its new platform should manage a data volume of 200 teraflops a second — 50 times the processing capability of the graphic chip used in Sony's newest PlayStation 4 Pro.
For Level 3 functionality, one unit would suffice, Sohn said. But for higher levels of autonomous driving, manufacturers can simply add more units to achieve their computing needs, stacking them neatly on top of each other or laying them flat depending on packaging requirements.
"Those are the features that can accelerate the adoption of new technology," he said. "Nobody can afford to develop a technology that is a dead end. It's too expensive."