The new memorandum of understanding (MoU) will see the pair collaborate to develop AI-powered self-driving vehicles, facilitated by the operator’s 5G mobile network

This week, South Korea’s largest mobile operator SK Telecom (SKT) has signed a new MoU with Mars Auto, a company developing a unique AI solution specifically designed for self-driving trucks.

The partnership will explore the use of SKT’s 5G capabilities alongside Mars Auto’s ‘Mars Pilot’ AI system, allowing the latter to make driving decisions based on real-time data from numerous vehicle-mounted cameras.

The partners say that AI will play an increasingly crucial role in the development of autonomous vehicles, allowing those vehicles to accurately predict traffic conditions and potential hazards. This is particularly important for larger vehicles like trucks, which have a greater braking distance and so require more time to respond to threats.

According to SKT, the project will see the Mars Pilot AI trained on over 100 million kilometres of road data gathered by the telco, allowing it to make better informed decisions about external stimuli, like traffic and weather conditions.

“[Through this deal,] we were able to acquire the infrastructure needed to maximize the potential of our AI software,” explained Mars Auto CEO Park Il-soo. “We will create a safer, more efficient driverless service.”

SKT’s interest in autonomous vehicles is well established. The operator has been working alongside the Korean Transportation Safety Authority since 2018 to develop 5G-connected self-driving vehicles in K-City, a purpose-built smart city for self-driving vehicles located in Hwaseong. Since then, SKT has been at the head of numerous additional self-driving pilots, including vehicle-to-everything (V2X) testing on a 32km section of road in Seoul.

In related news, SKT has also this week partnered with German operator Deutsche Telekom, with the companies pledging to co-develop a large language model for the telecoms industry, with a particular focus on creating the next generation of digital assistants.

The partnership is reportedly the first of a number of collaborations planned as part of the Global Telco AI Alliance, formed by Deutsche Telekom, e&, Singtel, and SKT earlier this year.

The project will also build on SKT’s $100 million investment in AI firm Anthropic.

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