Panasonic expects to launch its autonomous driving system for commercial vehicles by 2022, as it continues to turn its focus to advanced auto parts.
The Japanese company said it will use its expertise in TVs and cameras for the system, which will enable autonomous driving at low- and medium-speed ranges including self-valet parking.
Panasonic -- which is currently the battery cell supplier for Tesla's Model 3 -- has been pushing its range of driving-related products in an effort to catch up other suppliers such as Bosch and Continental AG.
"We know we are behind our rivals right now," said Shoichi Goto, director of vision and sensing technologies at Panasonic's automotive R&D division. "But we have developed key LSI 9 (large-scale integration) chips for advanced image processing and sonar sensing that would give us major advantages."
Goto added that the new chips will need more testing before the system's commercial launch.
Panasonic established the automotive R&D division in April this year, as part of continuing efforts to shift away from lower-margin consumer products such as smartphones towards other revenue opportunities. For the new division, the company transferred 350 engineers from TV and other consumer electronics divisions.
In August last year, Panasonic fully acquired German automotive technology firm OpenSynergy, which specialises in automotive software for in-car cockpit solutions.
It pulled out of consumer smartphones four years ago.
Panasonic originally partnered with Tesla to supply automotive-grade battery cells in 2011. Last year, the company said it hopes to work with Tesla to produce more than just batteries for "next generation" vehicles in order to move further into the automotive field.
Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga reportedly said that the company is "deeply interested" in Tesla's self-driving vehicle system and ambitions, and wants to "expand our collaboration by jointly developing devices for that, such as sensors".
The companies announced plans last December to develop and manufacture photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules for use in household solar panels from a $256 million factory in New York.
The PV cells and modules will be used in solar panels Tesla will be manufacturing to store power in customers' homes through Tesla's energy storage products, the Powerwall and Powerpack.
The company will also be ramping up automotive lithium-ion battery production in Japan in response to increasing demand, and has also been building up production capacity of automotive batteries in the US and China.
Panasonic announced 83.93 billion yen in profit for the quarter ended June 30, 2017, up from 71.81 billion a year prior. For the full year ended March 31, 2017, operating profit for the company stood at 276.8 billion yen, up from 230.3 billion yen a year prior.
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