Panasonic is in a committed relationship with Tesla, but Panasonic wants to take it to the next level. The company is the exclusive supplier of Tesla’s car batteries for its Model S, X and 3, and it’s invested $255 million in Tesla’s solar energy efforts. Now, with the car maker looking toward autonomous vehicles, Panasonic has decided it wants a piece of that pie too.
“We are deeply interested in Tesla’s self-driving system,” Kazuhiro Tsuga, Panasonic CEO, said in an interview on Thursday. “We are hoping to expand our collaboration by jointly developing devices for that, such as sensors.”
Tesla is already shipping cars with self-driving sensors. Its Hardware 2 platform, which launched in October, is a combination of sensors designed to support autonomous driving when the software is ready in the future. But Panasonic is confident that, by collaborating instead, it could help improve the quality of images supplied to the software.
Panasonic believes it could help supply a number of parts, including image sensors that can sense objects at higher speed without distortion. Self-driving cars need an incredible amount of data to make a decision, so any reduction in distortion will be a welcome benefit to these car makers. The company hopes to expand its car part business, a sector that includes navigation systems, to $17.43 billion by March 2019, over $6 billion more than the business was worth in 2016.
Tesla had a dramatic split from its previous sensor partner, Mobileye, back in July soon after Tesla’s autopilot was involved in its first fatal crash. In September, Mobileye lashed out at its former partner for “pushing the envelope in terms of safety” and its trajectory would hurt the self-driving car industry. Since the split, both Tesla and Mobileye have demonstrated self-driving car capabilities, but the latter is now partnering with other car makers to get their technology on the road. Partnering with Panasonic could start an exciting new chapter in Tesla’s self-driving history.
Watch the Tesla self-driving car in action here: