Panasonic wants to expand Tesla partnership to sensors for self-driving

Panasonic is hoping that it can get even closer to partner Tesla, after the relationship between the two has proven so fruitful in the realm of electric vehicle batteries. The Japanese company is looking to become involved in the production of Tesla’s self-driving system, too, with a proposal of collaborating on sensor development.

That’s according to Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga, who expressed interest in Tesla’s self-driving tech in an interview with Reuters on Thursday.

“We are deeply interested in Tesla’s self-driving system,” CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga told Reuters. “We are hoping to expand our collaboration by jointly developing devices for that, such as sensors.”

Currently, Panasonic is the exclusive supply partner for Tesla for batteries used in its vehicles, including the Model S and Model X. It will also supply the upcoming Model 3, which will require a significant increase in supply since Tesla aims to ship 500,000 of these cars in its first year.

Panasonic is a co-investor in Tesla’s Gigafactory, with $1.6 billion contributed to the $5 billion facility, and it will be working with Tesla more extensively on solar energy products going forward.The company also makes CMOS image sensors, and is currently working on a new version which would allow for sensing at very high-speeds of objects in motion, without the sacrifice in terms of distorted images normally associated with that kind of image detection.

Imaging sensors are a key part of an autonomous car, and the more accurate these become in a range of settings, the better for the eventual sensor fusion that combines data including photographic images, radar and LiDAR sensor info.

Teaming with Panasonic on sensors could help Tesla move more of that part of the business in-house, a move which is currently part of former Google self-driving car project Waymo’s strategy to help build more integrated systems with lower component costs over time.