- Published in Features.
There are millions of lines of code in a car but a large portion of the development process is focused on the basics, such as how to read data off a CD-Rom drive, requiring little innovation. Open-source software could allow OEMs to invest in high-value areas such as the human-machine interface (HMI).
The ability to design basic system building blocks couldn’t happen with a proprietary software platform, but because open-source software code is transparent it gives developers greater control.
Gunnar Andersson, responsible for next-generation infotainment systems at Volvo, says: “Code transparency is a requirement for large-scale code reuse in the development of new products. Any company developing complex software will aspire to have source code access to be able to efficiently assess exactly what the code does, its performance, how to use it and how to fix it.”
Reusing as much of the layered platform – operating system, middleware, applications – as possible will improve cost-effectiveness.
Infotainment middleware, the link between the operating system and the application, includes audio mixing and routing, network stacks, support for internet protocols and libraries for HMIs and graphics.
“Support for specific technologies such as connecting consumer devices like an iPod might also be included. Parts that implement the basic connection and communication with the iPod – gathering track listings, reading the iPod status, initiating play and pause – might be split off into reusable software components,” says Andersson.
Andersson is quick to state that although the use of open-source software will be beneficial in some instances, and that scaling the open-source platforms for vehicles from the A-segment up will be conceivable, some development areas will remain with proprietary software developers.
“Closed-source alternatives could focus on providing solutions for specific areas that could surpass less-focused open-source development. Highly-integrated, high-performance applications such as advanced 3D navigation and augmented reality might be where closed-source developers can still outperform the open-source alternatives for some time,” he says.
Other advantages that proprietary software currently has may eventually be overcome by open-source software – particularly robustness.
Joel Hoffmann, Intel’s business strategist for automotive solutions, says: “The automotive industry has been somewhat timid in adopting these concepts because of the quality and durability requirements. We have to find a way to harden open-source software in the same way that proprietary software has been.”