DETROIT -- With competition growing among automakers and suppliers to develop autonomous driving technology, the industry will be better served by adopting a single standard sooner rather than later, a group of experts said Wednesday.
In a panel at the Michigan Automotive Summit in Detroit, experts spoke at length about the industry's shift toward autonomous driving technology and the advantage of developing an industrywide standard.
Instead of each automaker and supplier going its own way, companies need to come up with a "standard which would make the entire industry rise around it much faster," said Jeffery Owens, chief technology officer at Delphi Automotive.
Other experts agreed, with one panelist describing the race to commercialize autonomous cars to that of the battle over the most ideal visual/audio recording format in the 1970s and '80s.
"This can't be like the VHS and beta," said John Rakolta Jr., CEO of Walbridge, a developer of manufacturing plants for the auto industry. "Even if it means picking winners, we need to find one idea and gather behind it to move this industry forward. … There needs to be the technology and standards that will allow Toyotas to talk to Fiats and so on."
Detroit-based Walbridge plans to develop a former General Motors plant near Detroit into a test track and advanced research center for connected vehicles.
The r&d center and test track would be used by automakers, suppliers and other technology companies developing semiautonomous and autonomous vehicles that communicate with other vehicles to reduce or avoid accidents.
Automakers have made great strides in creating the infrastructure needed to build self-driving cars of the future, but Rakolta said "software is where we are slipping."
Osamu Nagata, president of Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, said vehicle connectivity will be the key to further development of autonomous vehicles.
"Connectivity is one of the most important areas for the future. … We need to have more engineers who have experience in connectivity -- vehicle to vehicle, vehicle to infrastructure," Nagata said. "Things will get chaotic if there isn't a common communication throughout and standards developed."
Florida, California and Nevada have passed legislation legalizing self-driving cars for testing purposes.
Senate Bill 169, which passed through the transportation committee in March, would make Michigan the fourth state to allow manufacturers and suppliers to test self-driving vehicles on public roads and highways.
"You can put an autonomous car on the road today. The states that have done it are not exactly auto states. Michigan needs to be the most friendly to [automakers] as possible to make it inviting to have their work and research and development done here," Owens said.
Ford Motor Co., GM, Chrysler Group and Toyota Motor Corp. are all in support of the legislation in Michigan.
"We need to step back from specifics and engage the leadership, call the leaders and tell them to move Senate Bill 169 to help create a group to help push this forward as fast as possible," Rakolta said.
Sean Gagnier contributed to this report.