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Samsung gets OK to test a self-driving car
Source: Sol Han

The driverless car race is getting even more crowded.

Samsung has received the green light to start testing a self-driving vehicle in South Korea.

The tech company will be testing a car fitted with sensors and cameras, according to a government statement Monday. It will use artificial intelligence to study how the vehicle deals with bad weather and obstacles.

Samsung is the the first electronics company to receive government approval to test a driverless car on South Korean roads. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has previously granted approval to carmakers like Hyundai and Kia as well as academic and research institutions.

Samsung hasn't been hiding its interest in the driverless car industry.

It set up a business unit in late 2015 to focus on autonomous driving technology. In November 2016, it spent $8 billion to buy U.S. firm Harman, which develops software and components for connected cars. And in February, it invested in TetraVue, a company developing 3D technology that identifies unexpected and dangerous obstacles in front of autonomous cars.

Driverless car technology is already a crowded field. It includes big tech firms such as Google, Apple and Baidu, traditional car makers like GM and Ford, and ride-hailing startups Uber and Didi.

"The car has become the next big 'mobile device', where the tech industry now sees ... opportunities," said Robin Zhu, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Bernstein. Many companies are investing because everyone else is doing it, he added.

Samsung is more focused on developing technology for driverless vehicles than building its own, saying in a statement that it "has no plan to enter the car manufacturing business."

In January, executives from Samsung and Harman talked about plans to create an autonomous car platform that could be sold to auto manufacturers.

The self-driving car Samsung will be testing is a Hyundai vehicle equipped with cameras and sensors, according to South Korea's Yonhap News.

-- Sol Han contributed to this report.

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