Leveraging Open Source to Step up the Automotive IVI Game

Fast forward a couple of years, and perhaps Linux will drive the IVI system in your car. And why not! The Automotive Grade Linux working group and GENIVI alliance are working together to create a Linux-based open source platform for IVI software development. Open Source IVI systems show promise to take the car-handset connectivity to a whole new level.

But why did the world’s largest automotive open source movement choose to develop the automotive IVI systems first, and that too with Linux?

Why Begin With the IVI System?

New mobile phones and gadgets release every month. Even, Android and iOS versions release often. Don’t you upgrade your mobiles and their OS versions as soon as something better gets available? You do.

My point is that consumers switch technology rapidly. And which part of a car has to actually match up with this breakneck speed?

Yes, you’re right. It’s the IVI system. The IVI is the central processing unit when it comes to connectivity. All the communication happens here.

While engine performance and fuel efficiency remain important factors, the IVI robustness is also becoming increasingly important for the users.

The IVI open source automotive software promises ultra-advanced IVI systems, and thus becomes the first choice for development.

 “Consumers have become accustomed to interacting with their personal mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. They now expect the same level of user experience from automotive infotainment systems, especially with regard to the user interface,” says R M Satish, principal research analyst, Gartner.

How can Open Source Level the Playing Field for Car Manufacturers?

Using open source for IVI system development means:

#1 Fast Development – No need to waste time reinventing the wheel

Most IVI systems are currently built on a stack of disintegrated components running operating systems of their own. Any change to any one of them, and the developers have to start building the structure ground up.

Using open source, however, makes sure that you’re only adding to what you already have.

#2 Feasibility – Matching up with the mobile development cycles

Because of the cost and time involved in coding and updating an IVI system, rolling out updates takes 4-5 years typically.

But mobile technology changes fast. And users would their cars’ IVI systems to meet this speed.

Taking resort in open source enables you to roll out IVI system updates faster. This is an excellent revenue source, as people will willingly pay for convenience.

#3 Innovation – Outdoing customer expectations

The IVI technology is new. It’s untapped and unsaturated. So, there’s a lot of scope for innovation. There’s so much that can be done with mobile phones and internet connectivity.

Using open source lets you save time and effort, and generate more funds by rolling out fast updates. These pooled resources coupled with the robustness of open source present a thriving environment to developers to innovate groundbreaking solutions in this area.

Such freedom is not practical with proprietary software-based IVI systems.

How (and Why) Are Automotive Companies Using Linux for Open Source IVI Development?

Linux is one of the most popular systems for dashboard computing, heads-up driving displays and IVI. The Linux Foundation formed a sub-group called the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) organization back in 2012, which provides a common operating system and application programming interfaces (APIs) for car information and infotainment (IVI) systems. This Linux open source project is getting ready to take on the private proprietary players in the IVI domain.

“Anytime anyone builds something with Linux right now they’re building on years of experience in the server, desktop and mobile markets; building on what came before. That’s the difference,” Jones said. “They’re adding functionality all the time, not using effort to recreate existing services.”

“The Linux Foundation provides us with a neutral forum in which we can collaborate with the world's leading technology companies on open innovation that accelerates that evolution.

Linux gives us the flexibility and technology maturity we require to evolve our In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI) and communications systems to address the expectations of our customers said Kenichi Murata, Toyota's General Manager for Electronics Development.

“There is much effort going towards Linux development at the moment and it’s advancing rapidly,” said Matt Jones, a Senior Technical Specialist in Infotainment at Jaguar Land Rover and Vice President of GENIVI. “Over the next 5 years (automakers) will be increasing the functionality of the Linux IVI offerings, and some are even rolling it out across all of their car lines.”

But Open Source Comes with Responsibility

Open source components are free to use, but they come with a license which you have to comply with to avoid legal and business risks. The GENIVI alliance encourages the use of a number of acceptable open source licenses and provides training to members to help them understand the essential processes to maintain license compliance.

Whenever a company decides to use open source components in its software, it needs to understand that open source components come with the responsibility of managing it properly. Using open source components requires you to:

  1. Document all open source components that you are using (including dependencies).
  2. Track all licenses of your components and ensure they are aligned with your company’s business strategy (some licenses may force you to open your entire product or even worse).
  3. Continuously check for updates or new patch releases for the open source components that you are using, to ensure no security vulnerability or bugs are present.

Manually managing your open source can sometimes be a labor-intensive task, but there are alternatives. WhiteSource offers an automated solution that integrates into your build/server tools. It checks your open source usage, licenses, security, and quality with every build process and provides you immediate reports flagging all issues.

For more details, please drop us a mail at [email protected].com or just reply to this email to get a full report of your software’s open source components.