Sony has announced plans to spin out its semiconductor unit into a company called Sony Semiconductor Solutions. The restructuring could help Sony move its image sensors into markets for self-driving cars and inspection drones.
Sony said that Terushi Smimizu, the deputy president of Sony’s Device Solutions Business, will be appointed president. Sony's manufacturing and design units will operate as subsidiaries. It plans to complete the spin-out by April.
The restructuring will allow the semiconductor division to adapt more quickly to the automotive and Internet of Things markets, said IHS Technology analyst Brian O’Rourke in a research note. The company has fallen behind competitors in low-light and high-sensitivity sensors for smartphones and the fast-growing automotive market.
Sony's semiconductor business holds about 42% of the global market for image sensors, which are vital parts of advanced driving systems like blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warnings, and emergency braking. Sony's first automotive products are scheduled for mass production at the end of this year.
In 2020, the automotive industry will install around 83 million image sensors in vehicles, according to the research firm IHS Automotive. Earlier this year, Sony also invested in a robotics start-up that builds technology for humanoid robots, self-driving cars, and autonomous drones.