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The Ride: Cell phone companies dial in on self-driving car business

Apple is using a Lexus RX450h to test its autonomous driving technology in Silicon Valley.
Apple is using a Lexus RX450h to test its autonomous driving technology in Silicon Valley.

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Two things we Southern Californians love -- our cars and our smart phones. And now it looks like the two big gorillas in the cell phone world are setting their sights on automobiles.

South Korean smart phone maker, Samsung, announced this week that it received approval from the South Korean government to test its self-driving cars on public roads.  The world’s biggest maker of smart phones, Samsung is partnering with South Korean car company Hyundai, outfitting the auto maker's vehicles with sensors and machine learning systems to make the cars autonomous.

After years of speculation that Apple is getting into the automotive business, video surfaced last week showing the Silicon Valley iPhone maker testing a Lexus RX450h outfitted with Apple self-driving technology. Apple's hush-hush Project Titan car project has been in the works for about three years, prompting reports that the personal electronics maker might be building its own car. It's more likely that Apple is only working on software that will be used by existing car companies.

Silicon Valley search giant, and Pixel cell phone maker, Google, has also announced an expansion of its Waymo self-driving car division. Waymo announced last week that it will add another 500 Chrysler Pacificas to its self-driving fleet. Waymo also introduced its  Early Rider program, which will give free rides in self-driving Lexus SUVs and Chrysler Pacifica minivans to people who live in Phoenix.

Recent years have seen increasing synergy between the automotive and cell phone worlds, as cars become more computerized and cell phones are more seamlessly integrated into cars' operating systems. With driverless cars poised to become part of the automotive mix in just a few short years, technology companies that make smart phones are well situated to take part of one of the biggest and most disruptive technologies to come down the pike in years.