TOKYO -- Toyota Motor, Honda Motor and other Japanese companies are moving to collaborate on developing the key components of self-driving cars amid international competition, drawing on support from academia as well as the government.
Major automakers including Nissan Motor as well as parts suppliers such as Panasonic and Hitachi will start the discussion at a meeting to be convened this month by the industry and transport ministries.
The government will work to formulate concrete measures and incorporate them as key parts of the new growth strategy to be compiled around June.
American, European and Japanese automakers are all competing to commercialize self-driving cars by around 2020. Such technologies as vehicle-control software and sensors to detect obstacles, as well as mass-production operations, will be crucial. Currently, Japanese parts makers are behind Bosch in sensors, with the German giant supplying western as well as Japanese carmakers.
Map and driving data is one area where multiple carmakers can share technologies. If Denso, Hitachi and other parts makers can sell their products across group boundaries, that would help hold down vehicle prices.
Common technology for communications links between the outside and vehicle control equipment to guard against accidents caused by hacking will also be targeted for sharing.
The public sector will help in developing infrastructure, so that traffic and accident information can be communicated from on-road systems. The government seeks to support Japan Inc. so it can compete better against Daimler and Google, for instance.
The University of Tokyo and Nagoya University will take part, with their research institutes handling analyses of massive data covering driving from the past.
Test courses that mimic highways may be set up, as driving in such roads is a focal point in international competition. The private and public sectors may invest a total of 10 billion yen ($83.4 million) or so to build the test facilities.
Standardization of technology and regulation is another key aspect. Germany is working to establish international safety standards that are favorable to German companies. If western players lead in developing the industry standards, that could put Japanese companies at a disadvantage. Consequently, the Japanese will consider adopting common parts specifications and discuss how their regulations on IT and safety could be made international.
The market for self-driving cars is seen reaching 10 million vehicles in 2035 and account for 10% of the overall market, contends U.S. research company IHS Automotive.