Samsung, the world’s largest smartphone maker, has turned to a comparatively tiny Silicon Valley startup to help it test, develop, and one day even deploy commercial fleets of self-driving taxis.
The collaboration is a boon for Renovo Auto, a startup that has developed an operating system of sorts that integrates and manages all the software needed for a commercial fleet of shared autonomous vehicles.
Renovo Auto’s operating system works similar to Google’s Android or, even AmazonWeb Services’ on-demand cloud computing platform. The company isn’t developing the AI algorithms that help the self-driving car understand the world around it and make the right decisions as it navigates city streets. Instead, Renovo Auto has created an API, or software intermediary, that other companies can use to bring all the pieces together, similar to how Android allows app developers to launch services in the smartphone market.
The operating system called AWare is flexible enough to allow different pieces of software to come together and work in sync without compromising security. The capability enables a commercial fleet of autonomous vehicles to handle massive amounts of data, maintain cybersecurity, and manage communications for a multitude of services that will be delivered to the rider.
“Our goal is to be a thin layer that works across lots of different vehicles, lots of different pieces of hardware, and works with pretty much any piece of software that someone would want to deploy on a vehicle,” CEO Chris Heiser told Fortune. “So in a way it’s like AWS, in that you can deploy software on it and you don’t have to manage where it goes, you don’t have to manage its lifecycle or data orchestration—that’s all done for you.”
The collaboration with Renovo signals Samsung’s place in the larger self-driving car race, as well as the company’s open-platform approach to the challenge.
Samsung already has shown it has an appetite for automotive and connected car technologies. Samsung agreed in November 2016 to buy Harman International Industries for about $8 billion, a deal that gave the South Korean electronics giant an immediate foothold in connected technologies— particularly automotive electronics.
But the company’s ambitions weren’t entirely clear until September, when Samsung President Young Sohn announced a new strategic business unit and a $300 million fund to invest automotive startups and autonomous driving technology.
Renovo says it’s been working with Samsung since the beginning of 2017, and its AWare operating system is in the electronic giant’s test vehicles today. Both Samsung and Renovo have permits to test autonomous vehicles in California. It isn’t clear if Samsung currently has vehicles testing on public roads.