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Hitachi, Panasonic floor it with spending on self-driving tech

Conglomerates boosting investment amid cross-industry effort

Panasonic concept art imagining the potential of driverless cars.

TOKYO -- Hitachi and Panasonic are investing more in businesses linked to next-generation automobiles as Japanese companies seek to fill a range of technological niches in the journey toward autonomous vehicles.

Hitachi will spend roughly 500 billion yen ($4.38 billion) in the technology by fiscal 2018 -- 20% more than it did in the three years ended fiscal 2015 -- while Panasonic is increasing production of electric-vehicle batteries. They will likely pour more than 1 trillion yen into the field, exceeding their total for the past three years by roughly 30%. They are turning to the automotive sector as they reshuffle portfolios and priorities.

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