Everyone wants a slice of the self-driving car market, and we can now add electronics giant Panasonic to that list. Tom Gebhardt, head of Panasonic’s US automotive division spelled out the company’s plans in an interview with Automotive News. He said that Panasonic has ideas about the way we interact with autonomous cars, which the company will develop out of its expertise with infotainment systems.
The company is also working closely with Tesla on the battery “Gigafactory” in Nevada, which will be key to Tesla’s ability to deliver almost 400,000 Model 3 electric vehicles to those in that gigantic queue of preorders. Gebhardt wasn’t able to put a number on Panasonic’s contribution to the factory—apparently that’s down to Tesla—but he said that the company would “do what we need to do to assure supply.”
As we’ve discussed previously, government regulators and the auto industry are hoping for great things from autonomous vehicle technology. In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is extremely bullish on self-driving cars, which it sees as the answer to reducing the 33,000 deaths on US roads each year.
Although most estimates put fully autonomous (level 4 in NHTSA-speak) cars more than a decade away from deployment, even cars with level 2 self-driving (adaptive cruise control and lane keeping) do much to reduce driver fatigue. Other advanced driver assistance systems like automatic braking are being rolled out industry-wide ahead of any government mandate.
Beyond reducing traffic collisions, there are other benefits. Platoons of trucks (and eventually passenger cars) should reduce congestion and carbon emissions, for example.
Gebhardt told Automotive News that it’s looking to redesign the human-machine interface in the car, with a combination of heads-up display, driver-monitoring system, and a standard instrument cluster. The company is also working with Ficosa on replacements for the traditional mirror, possibly something similar to the wide-angle augmented mirror that Chevrolet will use in the forthcoming Bolt EV.