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Japanese revved up for car software standard

Toyota, Honda, Nissan and others on board with Japanese government to develop a standard operating system for cars.

Japan's economy, trade and industry ministry is planning to develop a standard operating system for car electronics, according to a leading Japanese newspaper.

Among the major manufacturers signing on to the development project are Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Toshiba, Yomiuri Shimbun reported Monday.

The group's goal is to have a prototype by 2009.

Just as computer operating systems, such as Windows Vista, allow multiple applications to communicate with one another, an automotive operating system enables different driving systems to work together. The standard automotive operating system from Japan will include everything from fuel injection, brakes and power steering to power windows.

Currently, certain mechanical car parts are interchangeable from model to model. Smart car parts that operate off a common software standard would enable that kind of convenience to continue, while allowing them to communicate more easily with other smart components in a car.

While self-driving cars, such as those being developed for the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) challenge, are still quite some time away from consumers, self-parking cars are a reality.

A standard operating system that pervades multiple car brands would make it easier for developers, component manufactures and automakers to incorporate more sophisticated driving systems like self-parking into multiple car models.

Big Blue has already been investing in the eventuality of cars needing more sophisticated communications and operating systems. Last September, IBM signed a deal with Magna International, a company that makes smart car parts. IBM would not comment on details at the time, but did say its partnership would help to produce cars that use multiple sensory and metric input to self-brake if a driver does not react in time.

There is no indication as to which automotive operating system the Japanese consortium will be going with.

Several European automakers and component developers including BMW, Bosch, DaimlerChrysler, Siemens and Volkswagen use the operating system OSEK which includes communication and network tools.