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Sony to develop self-driving tech via tie-up with ZMP

ZMP chief Hisashi Taniguchi and the company's driverless car.

TOKYO -- Sony will work on technologies for autonomous cars by combining its expertise in image sensors with artificial intelligence technologies of robot developer ZMP.

     Sony plans to start mass-producing image sensors for driverless cars in December. These will boast roughly 10 times the sensitivity of typical automotive sensors, making it possible to detect obstacles in low light. ZMP software technologies will instantly analyze the huge volumes of data collected by the sensors.

     The partners plan to develop camera components together for marketing to domestic and foreign automakers. Sony may make the parts at its own plants or outsource production to foreign contract manufacturers.

     Sony is expected to invest about 100 million yen ($833,000) in ZMP, taking a stake of around 2% in the Tokyo-based startup.

     Some 11.8 million self-driving cars are projected to be sold in 2035, accounting for about 10% of the global automobile market, according to IHS Automotive. Driverless cars are seen growing in popularity in part because they will cut down on accidents.

     Sony hopes to build close ties with automakers in autonomous cars by supplying not only sensors, but also key components vital to the marketability of the vehicles.

     Sony and ZMP could find strong demand for their camera components in other industries as well. Logistics companies view drones as potentially helping to streamline personnel, while construction sites and farms increasingly seek machinery that can operate on its own. Sony sees expanded uses for its image sensors, a field where it is the global leader.

     ZMP already sells a self-driving car based on the Toyota Prius hybrid for use in tests. Its investors include JVC Kenwood, Intel and Komatsu.


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