We’re very excited to welcome Matthias Rudolph to Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center. He joins us as Vice President and Head of the Smart Machines group. In this role, he leads Samsung’s automotive strategy and initiatives, focusing on disruptive technologies and platforms for automated driving systems. We sat down with him to get his thoughts on his experience, his new role, and why he’s excited about the promise of autonomous driving.  

Q: Welcome to Samsung and congratulations on your new position as Head of Smart Machines! Can you share a bit about your background?

A: Thanks! I’m excited to be here. I’m coming from Audi, where I led the development of driver assistance systems across a range of vehicles — everything from Audi to Bentley to Porsche—including some of the first automotive applications of sensor fusion and AI. I’ve always been into cars and electronics. It started with me working on hi-fi equipment — stereos and amplifiers. That interest eventually led me to the University of Kassel, where I received my MS in Electrical Engineering, and later my Ph.D. in Aerospace and Engineering Mechanics from Iowa State. Directly out of university, I started my professional career at Audi and Volkswagen.

Q: You’ve spent more than 20 years at one of the world’s largest automakers. What were your responsibilities and what did you work on?

A: I’ve held several positions, beginning with powertrain testing and eventually working on the electronics for the entire vehicle, and at the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) center. As the industry and technology progressed, I was responsible for architecting advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and developing the sensors, frameworks, fusion, and AI for automated driving systems.

Q: What are some of the products you’ve helped bring to market?

A: In the early days of ADAS, I worked on everything from lane-keeping to traffic sign recognition and automated braking systems for a range of vehicles from Audi, Bentley, Porsche, Seat, and Volkswagen. Later, I helped incorporate the first Euro NCAP mono-vision camera in several cars and developed the central driver assistance controller (zFAS) that’s on the new Audi A8. I’m very excited about it arriving to customers this summer — it has the world’s first L3 traffic-jam pilot and it’s unlike anything else on the road.

Q: What sort of challenges did you face along the way?

A: The challenge with developing automotive products is that they have to be safe, reliable, and robust for the customer. We test and test and test, all over the world, to make sure that the systems we develop work in diverse environmental conditions. At Audi, we traveled to Norway and Sweden in sub-freezing temperatures with elks crossing in front of us, and few months later we’re in a sand storm in Dubai doing hot weather testing.

When it comes to automated driving, those kinds of environmental challenges, and the edge cases—things we have a hard time imagining, let alone developing for—are the hardest part.

Q: What drew you to Samsung and how do you see your previous experience shaping your work at Smart Machines?

A: Samsung is an incredibly powerful company with very bright engineers and management that is committed to our vision. Coming here gives me the opportunity to bring both my worlds together: Samsung’s amazing hardware and software expertise and my automotive systems understanding. Together, it’s an unbeatable team that will allow us to create a safe, trusted system for vehicles around the world.

Q: You’ve worked in automated driving longer than many in this industry. Do you have an overarching philosophy about automation and how do you imagine these technologies shaping the future in both the near- and long-term?

A: There are two clear paths for automated driving technology to go down simultaneously. The first are mobility services, where people just want to get from one point to the next. They don’t care about how it looks, so you can put all kinds of sensors and cameras on the roof, and those vehicles will be confined to cities and campuses — low-speed, geo-fenced areas. Then there are personally owned cars, where L3/L4 functionality will be a convenience and safety feature. These vehicles will take slightly longer to come to market because the use cases are far broader and the styling of the vehicle is important. Assuming regulations around the world allow it, I think we’ll see major OEMs coming out with real automated driving functionality in personally owned cars in the next several years.

Q: What excites you the most about automated driving and how Samsung is bringing this technology into to the world?

A: Automated driving has massive benefits to society. We can see a world where injuries and lives lost to crashes are greatly reduced or almost eliminated. As we work to get there, we can provide assistive functionality—new ways to make people safer drivers—that will save lives and make Samsung one of the leaders in this area.