How far away is a Sony car?

While the arrival of Sony’s 5.2in Xperia Z5 smartphone was no surprise to the guests at the company’s media event at IFA on Wednesday, it is the subsequent comments by Sony Corp president and chief executive Kazuo Hirai that is receiving much attention. Speaking to the Financial Times, Hirai said Sony is open to pursuing a tie-up with a traditional carmaker to capture the automotive market.

Referencing the research that technology giants Google and Apple are considering building cars, Hirai explained that the advent of electric cars has lowered entry barriers for new players.

Sony

“If we fundamentally believe at some point in time that we can make a difference in the automotive space, it’s something that we will look at,” he said.

“We don’t have plans at this point but never say never,” he added.

Sony has already collaborated with Ford to embed new technology into its smartcars and other technology companies are looking to tap into the rise of smart cars that are connected to the internet and use sensors to assist drivers. Google is working on a self-driving vehicle and Apple has embarked on an automotive project, eyeing vehicles as the “ultimate mobile device”.

According to THE Financial Times, Sony’s ambitions to expand its camera sensor sales to cars from smartphones and its aggressive foray into new sectors ranging from real estate to education have sparked questions about whether the Japanese group could also explore producing a car of its own.

“It’s just an extension of the status quo if Sony is looking to further grow its CMOS sensor and game businesses. But cars could potentially be a game changer,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch head of Japan research, Eiichi Katayama said.

Sony’s line-up of technologies – including its lithium-ion battery business and artificial intelligence capability garnered from its robot-making days – would be additional advantages in the automotive space. Sony’s rechargeable batteries are mainly used in smartphones, cameras and other electronic devices, but Mr Hirai said cars could be another area to explore.

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