Apple vs. Samsung: A Collision on Different Crossroads

Talk of Apple and Samsung and the picture that conjures up is that of the Smartphone wars. From patent infringement contentions to legal battles on design infringement, from courtroom face-offs to out-of-court settlements, these two companies have locked horns for many years now. In a recent development, Apple and Samsung have moved their battle for a larger share of the market to the streets – literally. Yes, you read that right. The two giants are now giving each other stiff competition in the autonomous vehicles segment.

Apple’s autonomous vehicle project – that it calls Project Titan – recently earned permits to test the technology in Silicon Valley. Subsequently, Samsung was allowed to test its self-driving cars on Korean roads. Primarily, both companies are testing software that will assist autonomous vehicles – but will the iCar(?) arrive into the market sooner? Or will Samsung take the lead in what it is believed to be developing – advanced sensors, machine learning systems, and computing modules that can make autonomous vehicles highly reliable even in terrible weather conditions? Samsung’s acquisition of US automotive audio supplier Harman International is a clear indicator of its ambition to make a mark in automotive and connected technologies.

Samsung seems to have steered clear from entering the car manufacturing business; but the Korean giant is poised to test deep learning algorithms for autonomous operations in homegrown vehicle brands such as Hyundai. Apple is giving an indication to test only its software platform using a Lexus SUV. Will the near future find these two companies accelerate their race on new tracks and meet again in courtrooms for the Apple vs. Samsung v2.0 war?

The IP Race

Patenting activity by both Apple and Samsung go hand in hand with floor testing. Two recent patent applications from Apple and Samsung filed with the USPTO indicates the race is on at every front. Both patents clearly relate to autonomous vehicle technology, as shown below:

apple-samsung automobile war

Autonomous vehicles could emerge as the world’s most lucrative business in the near future; it is not of much surprise that Apple and Samsung have begun accelerating on the IP route. While it will be interesting to watch this race, there are reports doing the rounds that Apple is working on an electric car and pushing hard for its release as early as 2020. Will this give Apple an edge in the market? It’s something to watch out for.

Meanwhile, both companies are developing automobile-friendly technology and testing their software on roads; all this while autonomous vehicles are unlikely to hit the roads before 2020. There is active R&D and patenting activity happening behind the scenes. While the Smartphone wars barely involved security concerns in terms of devices, innovation in communication for autonomous vehicles is focusing heavily on addressing safety concerns and regulations. Apple and Samsung entering this fray will bolster an interesting trend of innovation for survival in a world that is heading towards IoT.

(Featured image source:

Nikesh Dodwani
Nikesh Dodwani

Nikesh is a strategy analyst with an expertise in technology evolution trends, patent holdings and assessment of IP strengths of patent holders. He works on high-profile technology litigation and licensing programs, helping attorneys and clients find crucial infringement evidence. Nikesh is a co-author of the 4G-LTE U.S. Patent Landscape - 2016 Update iRunway research report.

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