Yes, there is a place for Open Source in Automotive

A few days ago I posted a comment on Jim Whitehurst’s article, stating my opinion that his request to make mission critical application software of the ECUs is unrealistic. So does that mean that open source software has no future in automotive? Of course not. The software of an automotive company could be divided into the following categories:

  • Business Software (e.g. SAP, Oracle, Web Servers)
  • Development Tools (everything for the product lifecycle, i.e. requirements, design, implementation)
  • Basic Software for ECUs (i.e. the “Operating System”)
  • Application Software

Obviously, for the Business Software, the automotive industry is not too different from other industries. Open source alternatives exists and are in use (like Apache Web servers etc.) to some degree.

The development tools are experiencing an increase of open source software through the use of Eclipse. A number of OEMs, suppliers and tool vendors are using Eclipse as a platform for standard and company specific tool development. GMF, EMF, Xtext and others are widely accepted. The commercially reliable license of Eclipse is a strong factor for the adoption of the platform. And the commitment to Eclipse starts to pour back to the open source community: The new Sphinx project proposal is based on a code base that was developed by the Artop members.

Basic Software has not played a major role in open source yet. One factor being, that there was not a widely accepted standard before AUTOSAR (yes, there was OSEK, but AUTOSAR might bring more attention). Right now, there is no established open source code base for AUTOSAR, but with everything being standardized, this might start with simple modules.

Application Software (your driving assistance, dynamics, enginge control) etc. will still be considered an important setting and not be easily migrated to an open source model.

However, open sourcing application software would probably have a small effect on quality only. Improving the development tool chain is going to yield better results. And open source offers a lot for the tool chain.

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