July 24, 2018 / 12:48 PM / in a month

Sensor specialist AMS bets on self-driving cars

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian chipmaker AMS, mainly known as a supplier of sensors for Apple’s iPhone X, aims to expand further into the fast-growing business of making sensors for self-driving cars. The Swiss-listed company already develops sensors that can help to map roads and control gear shifters and chassis in autonomous vehicles.

FILE PHOTO: A camera sensor is attached to the mirror of a self-driving car at the Renesas Electronics autonomous vehicle test track in Stratford, Ontario, Canada, March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Mark Blinch/File Photo

“Attractive demand for our automotive solutions continues across product lines,” Chief Executive Alexander Everke said during a conference call on Tuesday.

Everke said AMS was engaging with “a global pioneer in autonomous driving platforms” and had attracted solid interest from other industry players for in-cabin monitoring solutions.

FILE PHOTO: Chief Executive Alexander Everke of the multinational semiconductor manufacturer AMS (Austria Mikro Systeme), February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Moritz Hager/File Photo

Alphabet Inc’s self-driving unit Waymo, General Motor’s Cruise and some German carmakers such as VW’s (VOWG_p.DE) Audi could fit the “global pioneer’s” description.

The company did not say how much money it currently makes from the automotive industry, but its automotive, industrial and medical businesses combined contributed 27 percent to its $686 million in sales in the first six months.

ONE-STOP-SHOP FOR SENSORS

Auto manufacturers need multiple sensors that can mimic what a person’s eyes and other senses do when driving a car.

So analysts view AMS as the company to watch in terms of development of sophisticated sensor packages, mainly thanks to the CEO’s shopping spree in the past few years.

Since taking over in March 2016, the electrical engineer has sold divisions he thought were not needed and bought several niche specialists to create a one-stop shop for sensors.

In the car industry, AMS aims to expand with super-fast and power-effective laser diodes that are used for light detection and ranging in self-driving cars - so-called VCSELs for automotive Lidar.

The Lidar market, currently limited mainly to unmanned aerial vehicles, military and engineering applications, is expected to grow rapidly over the next ten to 20 years, according to Liberum analysts.

Everke said AMS was in advanced discussions with a manufacturer regarding new sensors that can detect whether the driver’s hand was on the steering wheel or not.

There were interesting market opportunities for this function, the CEO said. “More so as we do see potential for this functionality to become mandatory to regulation.”

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle. Editing by Jane Merriman

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