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Japan’s Big Three Work Together in Self-Driving Vehicle Development Project

February 27, 2015

In a time when every automaker seems to be racing to put self-driving cars on the road, it is easy to assume that it is every man for himself. However, a recent report by Nikkei proves otherwise. The business daily said that Japan’s three biggest vehicle manufacturers are teaming up to put the country in the forefront of the autonomous vehicle movement.

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. are partnering with the Japanese government as well as electronics companies Panasonic and Hitachi to develop technologies related to autonomous driving. The consortium is said to be the idea of the government, which reportedly aims to be one step ahead of the United States and Germany in terms of self-driving vehicle innovations. According to Nikkei, Japan is worried that US and European automakers will take the lead in self-driving technology development, putting its carmakers at a disadvantage.

Nikkei stated that Japan is bringing together its Big Three along with the aforementioned electronics giants through what a land and transport ministry official dubbed a “self-navigation business conference.” The daily reported that the first order of business is the standardization of software as well as equipment (such as sensors) that would help the group reduce the costs related to development and production. The next step would be creating technology which guarantees that the communication system is secure, so that accidents that result from hacking could be prevented. The last move is to build infrastructure that will support the self-driving car initiative.

Aside from the vehicle and electronics manufacturers, also involved in the project are universities, specifically the University of Tokyo and Nagoya University. The research institutes of both universities will be in charge of data analysis.

As for the Japanese government’s role in this undertaking, it will serve as a financer. According to Nikkei, the government will invest 10 billion yen ($84 million) in the construction of test courses for the self-driving vehicles.

The meeting of all involved parties is scheduled for the summer.

Japan may be feeling the pressure as foreign automakers and tech giants alike join the self-driving car race. There is enough evidence to prove that Apple Inc. is working on a self-driving car project, something Google has developed much earlier. Meanwhile, Swedish automaker Volvo Cars intends to bring self-driving vehicles on the roads of Gothenburg as early as 2017.

This is not the first time Toyota, Honda and Nissan have come together. Earlier this month, Nissan announced that all three companies will be working together to expedite the development of hydrogen fuel stations for fuel cell vehicles in their home country.

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