Japan to spur automotive tech collaboration at home
Common standards getting drawn up for carmakers, parts suppliers, IT providers
TOKYO -- The government will help Japanese companies cultivate cutting-edge technologies in automobiles by providing uniform evaluation criteria and a common information system platform.
Four major automakers -- Toyota Motor, Honda Motor, Nissan Motor and Mazda Motor -- have been working with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry since last year to develop guidelines as well as the information technology system. Components makers like Panasonic, Denso and Mitsubishi Electric have also taken part.
Automakers normally use their own evaluation criteria in development. Consequently, parts suppliers shoulder the heavy burden of testing prototypes in various ways to prove that they meet each automaker's expectations. Information sharing and technology cooperation among industry peers have not been easy. Nor has it been simple to build business relations across group affiliations.
The development of new technologies such as autonomous driving and electric vehicles is highly complex, and production processes differ significantly from ordinary cars. Automotive companies will need the expertise of IT businesses and research institutions. Having to coordinate standards each time would be inefficient and could erode Japan Inc.'s competitiveness against European and U.S. companies.
One area that the companies are concentrating on now is so-called "connected cars." Developing such autos with constant access to the Internet requires new types of knowledge and experience, so common standards and a shared system would make it easier for startups and universities to participate.
The standards will specify common units for measuring electricity and heat, among other things. Energy transfer from the drive shaft to tires, for instance, will be gauged with torque and revolution rate.
The IT system to be released along with the standards will let companies verify fuel economy, acceleration and battery performance using common yardsticks. The industry ministry and participating businesses decided the content of the system, and a startup that specializes in supporting automotive technology development built it.