[CES 2018] Hyundai keen on tech tie-up, even if it’s with Samsung

By Cho Chung-un

South Korea’s largest automaker shifts focus from traditional motor to IT shows

  • Published : Jan 9, 2018 - 15:04
  • Updated : Jan 9, 2018 - 17:37
LAS VEGAS -- International motor shows have long been a gateway for many carmakers like Hyundai Motor Group to win global recognition. However, the South Korean auto giant is increasingly paying attention to tech shows including the Consumer Electronics Show, rather than the Detroit Motor Show, an event scheduled for the end of this month.

Defining itself as a latecomer in autonomous technology and connected mobility, Hyundai Motor’s top tech officer said Monday that the company is eager to form tech partnerships with leading information and communication technology companies worldwide.

It is even considering collaboration with Samsung, the South Korean tech giant that it has been keeping its distance from for years due to veiled rivalry.

“We probably cannot achieve (our goal) if we do not collaborate with ICT companies in almost all areas, including Samsung,” said Yang Woong-chul, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor who leads the carmaker’s R&D division, in a group interview.

“We are in discussion of many ideas, but are not on specific items,” he added. 

Hyundai Motor Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun (right) and Aurora CEO Chris Urmson shake hands after unveiling Nexo FCEV at Consumer Electronics Show 2018. (Hyundai Motor)

Hyundai’s move comes amid cars fast transforming into “cultural spaces,” shifting from their tradition role of transporting people and products.

Developing better engines and changing designs are no longer as important as they were in the past in terms of the industrial revolution.

Convergence with information technology is “a must” for carmakers and is the only way to seek innovation in vehicle technology, the company said. “It’s better for us to go to an electronics show, not a motor show, if we want to discuss how to innovate vehicles,” another Hyundai official said.

Other major carmakers are also participating in the event.

Toyota revealed e-Palette vehicles aimed at providing various spaces while on the move, such as on-demand offices, meal deliveries, stores and medical clinics. Ford and a trilateral alliance of Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi plan to unveil their future car vision and connected mobility.

Despite growing optimism, the technological uncertainty of shifting the control of driving from human hands to highly engineered and fully connected software is driving carmakers to seek alliances.

Hyundai has teamed up with Aurora Innovation led by Chris Urmson, former self-driving head for Google, while the US startup has also formed a separate alliance with Volkswagen and decided to use Nvidia’s latest chips.
And CES is the place to see how far each of them have come so far and seek partnerships to achieve the goal that no one has reached yet.

“Expanding the market is important. … We have to solve problems together about safety issues,” said Chung Eui-sun, vice chairman of Hyundai Motor, and the only son of Chairman Chung Mong-koo, when asked about partnerships with its competitors on future cars in general, after the carmaker’s press conference at the CES. “It takes time.”

By Cho Chung-un, Korea Herald correspondent (