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Sony makes first moves into driverless cars game

Sony recently unveiled a thousand-something-dollars worth mp3 player, capable of reproducing songs of some extreme quality.

However, it seems that Sony won’t be pursuing the portable music players industry that much, and has shown interest in another field to fight its battles – the self-driving cars.

After Google and Apple (and Mercedes, BMW and dozens of others), Sony wants a piece of that cake, as well.

As Financial Times reports, the company recently invested Y100m (£547,000) to buy a two per cent stake at ZMP, a Japanese start-up making robot cars.

Sony’s goal is to use its knowledge of image sensors in combination with ZMP’s robotics know-how, to create a car that can run without a driver.

As of lately, Sony’s been struggling in the TV and the smartphone markets, but image sensors is something where the company excels, and it seems to be planning to build on that strength.

So where’s the money in that picture? Surely, the smartphone market is much bigger, with annual global sales exceeding 1bn units, but as driverless cars push towards commercial use, the demand for advanced cameras will grow.

In an interview, Shigeo Ohba, general manager of Sony’s image sensor business, said he expects demand for automotive image sensors to expand significantly from 2017 and continue through 2030.

“We have to be No 1 in automotive sensors” by the time self-driving cars are expected to hit the roads in early to mid-2020s, Mr Ohba said.

That’s right, folks. Sony wants to be in everyone’s car by mid 2020s. And every driverless car will have as much as 10 cameras installed.