Panasonic has become a crucial partner to Tesla over the years. After becoming the first battery manufacturer to accept to supply them despite having no track record in the mid-2000s, their partnership grew to multi-billion dollar battery supply contracts.
The partnership has since transitioned to a manufacturing collaboration at the Gigafactory for batteries and at SolarCity’s Buffalo factories for solar panels.
And it could now grow to other parts of Tesla’s business according to Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsuga.
During an interview Thursday, Tsuga said that he hopes to partner with Tesla on developing self-driving technology – specifically sensors:
“We are deeply interested in Tesla’s self-driving system. We are hoping to expand our collaboration by jointly developing devices for that, such as sensors.”
A few months, Tesla unveiled its second generation Autopilot hardware suite, which consists of 8 cameras, 1 radar, ultrasonic sensors and a new supercomputer to support its ‘Tesla Vision’ end-to-end image processing software and neural net.
The new suite is expected to be the Autopilot team’s focus for the foreseeable future as the company aims to achieve level 5 autonomous driving on the system, but a next generation hardware is, of course, likely to happen in the next few years also.
Panasonic would apparently like to be involved with developing that next generation of sensors.
According to Reuters, Tsuga was thinking of the organic photoconductive film CMOS image sensor as a possible candidate for development with Tesla:
One candidate would be so-called organic photoconductive film CMOS image sensors currently under development at Panasonic, which enable high-speed sensing of moving objects without distortion, Tsuga said.
Here’s a quick demonstration of their CMOS image sensor:
Panasonic has been trying to shift its focus to the automotive business while its consumer electronic business is winding down. The Japanese company sees Tesla has an important way to position itself it that industry.
Another possible area of collaboration would be in heads-up display considering the growing speculation of Tesla’s vehicle lineup soon being equipped with the technology, especially the Model 3 due to the lack of instrument cluster in the early prototypes.
Panasonic has long been working on heads-up display and unveiled its latest version of the technology at CES earlier this month:
How do you feel about Tesla and Panasonic potentially expanding their partnership beyond batteries and solar panels? Let us know in the comment section below.