Japan's three biggest automakers are considering collaborating over vehicle software to increase development efficiency as electric vehicles gain a growing share of the market, sources familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and Nissan Motor Co. aim to standardize part of their software to promote collaboration with their parts suppliers and IT firms over vehicle controls and developing services, the sources said.

The automakers are expected to unveil the tie-up at a study group meeting to be held by the industry ministry in the near future, the sources said.

The potential collaboration between the major rivals appears to be a response to the rapid digitalization of cars in the United States and China.

Their major overseas competitors, such as U.S. EV giant Tesla Inc. and China's BYD Co., have been leading innovation in the car industry, where software plays an increasingly big role as more vehicles become electrified.

Japan's industry and transportation ministries expect to include the potential collaboration in a digital strategy for the country's auto industry that they are currently drawing up. The initiative could expand to include other carmakers in Japan, the sources said.

The tie-up is expected to revolve around application programming interfaces, or APIs, which link different software applications. Standardizing APIs will allow the automakers to reduce costs and use the same parts, such as sensors, across different brands, the sources said.

The collaboration scheme comes on the heels of the surprise announcement in March by Honda and Nissan about a potential tie-up over EVs and software.

"The automakers are feeling the need for increased collaboration," said one of the sources who declined to be named because the information is not public yet.

"They are facing competition to make their specifications open to more parts makers and tech firms so the companies can develop products more easily and create various services for them," the source said.

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