Companies unite on autonomous car OS to challenge Google

KAZUYUKI OKUDAIRA, Nikkei senior staff writer
TOKYO -- Asian companies, including a Toyota Motor subsidiary and LG Electronics of South Korea, have joined hands with U.S. and European companies in the development of an "open source" operating system for autonomous driving cars.

Some 20 companies and organizations have established an association under the name "Autoware Foundation" to share their technology and knowledge to challenge Google and other leaders in the development of self-driving technology.

The founding members include Toyota Research Institute Advanced Development, British semiconductor design company Arm Holdings, LG, China's Huawei Technologies group, Velodyne LiDAR, a leading American manufacturer of parts for autonomous driving, and Nagoya University.

Autoware is the name of an OS jointly developed by Nagoya University, Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and other organizations related to autonomous cars.

To promote the use of Autoware, the foundation will assume tasks such as development management, acquisition of safety standards and trademark management.

Operating systems for self-driving vehicles play a role in recognizing obstacles on roads and in the surrounding environment, specifying their locations, and selecting driving routes in an integrated manner. They hold the key to the commercialization of autonomous cars.

Waymo, affiliated with Google, Chinese information technology firm Baidu and major automakers have been pushing ahead with the development of OSs on their own.

While Waymo and other leaders in the development race adhere to their own systems, the new foundation has adopted an open-source format so that anyone can modify and use Autoware for free. The format is also aimed at gathering wide-ranging technologies and knowledge. More than 100 companies are currently testing the system.

Tier IV, a Nagoya-based company established by developers of Autoware, has been promoting the OS. The new foundation will take over part of the work to accelerate the promotion of the system.

Earlier in December, Waymo, which has been leading the development of self-driving cars, announced the launch of a driverless taxi service in the U.S. state of Arizona.

The formation of alliances for self-driving technology, including mergers and acquisitions, is also shifting into a higher gear.

General Motors acquired a self-driving startup for $1 billion in 2016 and accepted investment in the new unit from SoftBank Group and Honda Motor.

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