Why open source is the best way forward for the software-defined car

Why open source is the best way forward for the software-defined car

Automakers need the flexibility and scalability that open source collaboration is known for to develop software-defined cars today and tomorrow.

“Software was once part of the car,” said German computer scientist Manfred Broy . said. “Now software determines the value of a car. The success of a car depends much more on the software than on the mechanical side.”

It’s so true. Advances in connected car, autonomous vehicles, shared and electric (CASE) technologies have set the automotive industry on a revolutionary path towards software-defined vehicles.

Modern luxury vehicles have about 100 million lines of code. By comparison, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet holds about 14 million. That number is expected to reach 200 million by 2025 and potentially reach 1 billion lines of code with increasing adoption of autonomous driving systems.

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From infotainment systems to driver assistance systems to various connected car applications, software-defined vehicles – in which most of the functionality is performed by software applications running on built-in processors and sensors – offer drivers enormous benefits and represent a huge growth opportunity for the industry.

But the CASE way is not easy. The software and hardware components that enable today’s innovations require a different system architecture to function. This poses complex challenges for original equipment manufacturers and suppliers.

Cyber ​​security and security considerations also generate new requirements. And all the while, the industry is trying to maximize efficiency and control costs without compromising innovation.

Also see: They’re not cars anymore, they’re computers on wheels

To dive deeper the challenges are:

1) Hardware complexity. In the automotive industry, electronic hardware design is not based on a central processing unit (CPU) mounted on a motherboard like a laptop. Instead, it uses a System on Chip (SoC), an integrated circuit that contains all or most of the computer components.

But it’s not that simple. SoCs usually contain various CPUs for major computing and security purposes, including digital signal processing units (DSP), graphics processing units (GPUs), video accelerators, image processing units (IPUs), and others. As you can see, SoCs are quite complex.

A good answer to working in such a complex environment: reduce the dependencies on hardware and software. Such an approach is common in other industries. Take the iPhone for example. The same iOS version can run on multiple generations of iPhones. In addition, the same iPhone can benefit from updates to multiple versions of iOS throughout its lifetime.

However, removing these dependencies is difficult. After all, decorating hardware development cycles of software development implies a change in business models, sourcing and ways of working. In addition, the automotive industry suffers from the lack of clear standards that would allow for a simpler interface between the vehicle’s hardware and software.

2) Software complexity. According to McKinsey“The average complexity of individual software projects in the automotive industry has grown 300 percent over the past decade.”

For example, if there is a redundant software component or feature, most OEMs feel that the existing software cannot be reused as this would mean using a completely different configuration. That would result in additional work and potential compatibility issues. To increase complexity, electronic control units (ECUs) were historically built using a silo approach; each of them had its own hardware and software (including middleware, operating system and service set).

On top of that, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms are also a major contributor to the growing complexity of software embedded in vehicles.

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3) Skills. The industry’s transition to a software model not only changes development cycles, but also puts a full pivot in the skills required. In a tight job market, companies are challenged to attract and retain candidates with the right software skills for the mission. Stepping up business, car companies compete with software companies because they are both looking for the same skills.

4) Cybersecurity and Safety. As vehicles increasingly resemble computers on wheels, the potential for vulnerabilities increases. Hardware vulnerabilities can also occur and usually lead to even worse consequences. Some hardware issues can be fixed through software, but usually these common vulnerabilities and exposures remain for the entire life of the system.

Meanwhile, regulations are tightening, drawing attention to patches and fixes for common vulnerabilities and exposures across the ecosystem. Every software delivery must go through a cybersecurity and functional safety assessment and formal approval process before being pushed to the vehicle.

A final word on using open source

Essentially, the automotive industry is learning what every other software-dominant industry has: Software-defined architectures are complicated and have complex integration and debugging challenges.

And as is the case in so many other industries, embracing open source and Linux is a great way to address many of these challenges. For example, if an automotive OEM develops an improvement to an open source module or finds a bug, they can publish it to the community so that their function is used upstream for others to take advantage of.

By partnering with commercial Linux providers to get long-term support and security maintenance for both the Linux kernel and comprehensive open source packages, automotive companies can focus on their software solutions and drive competitive differentiation with applications and services developed for customers.

The industry needs the flexibility and scalability that open source collaboration is known for. This is the best way forward for an industry that continues to move towards its software-defined future.

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