EDITOR'S NOTE: This article published June 19 incorrectly reported that Renesas' system-on-chip costs $799. In fact, the company’s R-Car Starter Kit, which contains one SoC, costs $799.
TOKYO — Japanese automotive microchip maker Renesas Electronics Corp. will start delivering a new line of products for self-driving cars in December as it takes on global giants such as Intel Corp.
The move ignites an ambitious strategy by the Japanese chipmaker to embed itself in the growing field of autonomous vehicles.
Renesas' new technology acts as an onboard nerve center, coordinating and controlling vehicle functions.
It was unveiled in April in a self-driving demo car at a global developer conference here. The technology successfully steered a Lincoln MKZ sedan, bristling with antennas, around a hotel parking lot without a human hand on the wheel.
But the demo also showed how much work is still needed to make such systems compact and affordable.
Dubbed "Renesas Autonomy," the new package includes an image-recognition system that works with automotive cameras, around-view monitors and lidar systems.
The rollout comes as global chipmakers race to sell faster and more powerful processing power for future vehicles. Traditional computer chipmakers, such as Renesas and Intel, are flocking to the automotive sector, partly because they see it as more stable than their saturated and vacillating consumer good markets.
U.S. chip giant Intel agreed in March to buy Israeli autonomous-driving tech company Mobileye for $14.7 billion in a deal that thrusts the U.S. company into direct competition with Renesas, Nvidia Corp. and Qualcomm Inc. to develop self-driving systems.
Worldwide demand is expected to soar as carmakers react to increasingly stringent safety standards.
"This is really what's driving volume," said Shinichi Yoshioka, Renesas' vice president in charge of automotive microprocessors.
Yoshioka contends that Renesas has an edge because it can supply chips that handle sensing, decision-making and vehicle control — as well as chips that handle communication.
"We are covering most of the areas," he said.
Renesas plans to deliver samples of the upcoming system — using a chip it calls the R-Car V3M SoC — to customers in December and start mass production in June 2019.