Sony is reportedly developing silicon-based light detection and ranging (LiDAR) vision-sensing technology for autonomous vehicles.

With this move, the Japanese company aims to gain a foothold in the image sensor market.

LiDAR sensors allow autonomous vehicles to detect obstacles by emitting laser beams, which are then reflected back. The sensors serve as eyes for autonomous vehicles and are essential components for safety and functionality.

By creating a 3D representation to measure the speed of light and distances, the sensors can determine the proximity of any surrounding objects.

Sony chief executive Kenichiro Yoshida was quoted by the Financial Times as saying: “Smartphones probably made the biggest impact in the 21st century in terms of changing people’s lives. Mobility is next.”

Current LiDAR vision sensor models tend to be bulky, fragile and expensive components.

People close to the company were quoted by the Financial Times as saying that Sony’s LiDAR will not only be affordable but also compact due to the development of a lower-cost silicon chip, which enables long distances to be measured with high accuracy.

In 2018, Toyota began using Sony’s image sensors for its advanced driver assistance system. BMW, Mercedes and Audi are also using Sony’s camera sensors to test their self-driving vehicles.

Several companies are in the race to capture this market. Last month, Porsche SE made a substantial investment in Aeva, the company that develops sensors for self-driving vehicles.