Sony seems to be continuing its rumored self-driving push with a new patent awarded to the company by the World Intellectual Property Organization earlier this week, half a year after its initial application. The patent document indicates that the Japanese electronics giant could be working on a self-driving system which is also capable of identifying the mode of operation of another vehicle through a "determining unit," though not many details about the technology have been disclosed. The system can be applied to an electronic control unit to control an autonomous vehicle, according to the patent application. Additionally, the patent covers a mechanism that would allow multiple cars to communicate their operation modes to one another in real time.
Sony's supposed self-driving ambitions first surfaced last month after Nikkei reported that the Tokyo-based company was planning to team up with five taxi operators in Japan as part of an effort to develop a taxi-hailing platform powered by artificial intelligence technologies. The partnership, which includes Tokyo-based taxi operators Daiwa Motor Transportation, Hinomaru Kotsu, Kokusai Motorcars, Green Cab, and Checker Cab, reportedly aims to develop an AI technology that is capable of forecasting demand for the transport service by factoring in one’s ride history, weather updates, traffic alerts, and nearby public events. In theory, the AI-powered taxi platform would be able to deploy a host of vehicles in areas where it believes there's a rising demand for the service. It's presently unclear whether the company and its partners plan to debut the platform beyond their home country, assuming the technology ends up being commercialized.
Late last year, Sony demonstrated an entertainment-focused driverless vehicle called the New Concept Cart SC-1, a three-seater cart that can drive on its own at up to 12mph (19.31kmh). The demo took place at the Okinawa Science and Technology Graduate University College last September, with the autonomous vehicle carrying five 35mm R Exmor CMOS sensors, as well as ultrasonic modules and a two-dimensional LIDAR, providing the SC-1 with the ability to take accurate distance measurements and have a 360-degree view of its surroundings.