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Samsung Joins Waymo at Expanding Autonomous Test Site in Central California

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【Summary】Samsung Electronics is confirmed as the second autonomous driving developer to begin operations at a new planned hub for high-tech automotive research in Merced, California.

Eric Walz    Jan 30, 2018 11:32 AM PT
Samsung Joins Waymo at Expanding Autonomous Test Site in Central California
author: Eric Walz   

Samsung Electronics Corp is stepping up its autonomous driving efforts. After acquiring several autonomous vehicle tech startups and establishing a $300-million fund to spur connected and autonomous development, Samsung Electronics is confirmed as the second autonomous driving developer to begin operations at a new planned hub for high-tech automotive research in Merced, California. Alphabet's division Waymo has been testing its autonomous technology at the site since 2014.

As reported by WardsAuto, the South Korea-based company has done "recent work" testing autonomous tech components at the former site of Castle Air Force Base, which closed in 1995, confirms Mark Hendrickson, director of community and economic development for Merced County, which is spearheading the project.

Waymo spokeswoman Haley Morris says the secure test facility includes a mock city, complete with high-speed roads, driveways, railroad crossings, and other areas where autonomous test cars face more than 20,000 unique simulated driving scenarios that otherwise would require "hundreds of thousands of driving miles to encounter on public roads."

Sometime this year, both Waymo and Samsung likely will get a boost in exposure when the county and lead project designer GLD Partners ramps up marketing the 300-acre (121-ha) California AutoTech Testing, Development and Production Campus, which encompasses the independently run Waymo component.

$1 Billion Investment

The site is part of the 2,000-acre (809-ha) Mid-California International Trade District at Castle, a $1-billion multimodal industrial manufacturing and logistics development that Hendrickson says will eventually provide an estimated 10,000 new jobs.

Hendrickson told WardsAuto that while buildout of the full industrial facility is expected to take an estimated 20 years, the site is "on the verge" of meeting industry needs "in months not years."

Project planners envision the automotive campus, approximately 80 miles (129 km) west of California's Silicon Valley, will "meet the needs of all levels of the auto industry, from OEMs to suppliers and other vendors," he says.

Castle Rock Air Force Base was once home to the U.S. Air Force's B-52 bomber program, the Castle Air Base site maintains an underutilized business park as well as a general airfield that can accommodate large cargo transports and is currently used by alternate energy and aerospace research outfits.

Easy Access to Transportation

One selling feature of the site is its location. Adam Wasserman, principle at GLDPartners, says Castle is connected to two major railroads and in close proximity to two major north-south highways and four regional airports, as well as the ports of Oakland and Los Angeles, the latter with which Merced County recently signed an agreement to invest in and enhance trade opportunities and distribution channels.

"With, obviously, research and science and engineering, taking place so close to where we're located...we are well-poised to really represent the epicenter of what this industry could look like in future years," Hendrickson says. "This absolutely can serve as a catalyst for California to assert itself as the leader in this industry."


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