Chip startup UltraSense enters deal with Korean automotive supplier

By Stephen Nellis

(Reuters) - UltraSense Systems, a Silicon Valley startup that makes a chip that can replace mechanical buttons, said on Monday that it has signed a deal with South Korea's Mobase Electronics to supply chips in cars due to hit the market next year.

UltraSense makes a chip that uses ultrasound waves to detect when a person has tapped on a solid surface. Daniel Goehl, UltraSense's chief business officer, told Reuters that automotive companies are experimenting with replacing traditional control buttons with solid panels of metal or wood, especially in high-end models.

Under the deal announced on Monday, Mobase, a supplier to Korea's automotive industry, will use UltraSense chips in button bars it supplies to automakers.

"With UltraSense's partnership, we are confident that our solid-surface infotainment systems and other next-generation touch products will stand out with our customers to deliver exceptional touch user experiences," Son Byeong-Jun, chairman and co-chief executive of Mobase, said in a statement.

San Jose, California-based UltraSense's Goehl declined to say which vehicles will contain his company's chips, but said they will show up in "high-tier" models from Korean automakers.

"The first car rolls off the production line in January, and there'll be three or four other cars that roll off the line throughout 2024," Goehl told Reuters.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Will Dunham)