Mitsubishi is a big company made up of many different divisions and subsidiaries. Yeah, we tend to focus on Mitsubishi Motors, but the sprawling company also manufactures steel, builds televisions – we all knew someone in the 1990s with a hulking Mitsubishi "big screen" – and even screws together fighter jets and the missiles they carry.

According to a report from Automotive News Europe, Mitsubishi Motors is hoping to leverage the capabilities of its sister companies to catch up to the competition and get driverless cars on the road by 2020. That means adapting millimeter-wave radars, sensors, and cameras built for missiles to automotive uses. As Mitsubishi sees it, having the development work done on this tech – albeit for a radically different application – gives it a big advantage over the competition.

"All we have to do is to put together the components that we already have," Katsumi Adachi, the chief engineer for Mitsu's auto equipment division, told ANE. "None of our competitors have such a wide array of capabilities."

As ANE goes on to explain with the help of Tokyo-based IHS analyst Goro Tanamachi, this is no plug-and-play application. That's largely because of the different economics of the automotive and defense industries. In the former, the bean counters have a tremendous say. There are cuts and cost reductions and all sorts of other stuff designed to maximize profit margins. The defense industry, though, is the land of sparing no expense – that, according to Tanamachi-san, could make adapting missile tech to autonomous vehicles a possible, but potentially very pricey proposition.

"Cost-cutting requests are much more severe in autos than aerospace," Tanamachi-san told ANE. "I wonder if it's possible for them to bring down the cost of the systems to the levels manufacturers can use for cheap, low-end cars."

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