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Sony's Kaz Hirai Talks Autonomous Cars (But No Sony Robot Vehicle -- Yet)

The company is exploring bringing its images sensors to the next generation of vehicles.

Asa Mathat

Add Sony to the growing list of companies weighing the opportunities presented by autonomous vehicles — not building a self-driving car, mind you, but perhaps giving sight to the coming generation of self-driving cars.

Chief Executive Kaz Hirai said the Japanese electronics giant is exploring how to bring the image sensors now found in smartphones and digital imaging products into the vehicle.

“We want to see if the technologies we have, have applications outside the digital imaging world — most likely in automotive,” Hirai said in remarks Tuesday at the Wall Street Journal’s WSJDLive conference at The Montage in Laguna Beach, Calif. “Speaking with automotive manufacturers, they also find our image sensing technology is differentiating from our competitors.”

Hirai said the specifications of the auto industry are “quite different” from those of the consumer electronics business. It’s nonetheless an opportunity the company is exploring.

“We want to be a part of the ecosystem,” said Hirai.

It’s unlikely that consumers will see a Sony-branded robot car anytime soon.

“I love cars — and I’m never going to say never,” Hirai said. “But it’s something that we’re not looking at right now.”

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