For about a year, a group of heavyweight automotive and technology companies has been working on a way to hasten development of in-vehicle entertainment systems. Their solution: share basic software development using the open-source Linux operating system.
Among the nearly 50 members of the group, called the Genivi Alliance, are automakers General Motors, BMW AG, Nissan Motor, and, as of February 17, Renault SA. Suppliers include Visteon, Delphi Automotive, and Continental AG.
The Genivi (pronounced jah-NEE-vee) Alliance is focusing on developing "middleware"--the layer of software that allows various kinds of information and entertainment applications to work together in the car. Middleware controls such functions as encoding audio and video signals and managing power use.
"It's the part that just makes it work," Genivi Secretary Kyle Walworth, a senior manager of audio and information/entertainment architectures at Visteon, told Automotive News at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
Cooperation saves money
Walworth said sharing basic software development makes sense because it saves automakers time and money without raising competitive concerns.
Individual automakers choose and develop the applications that run on top of the software, whether it's a standard radio, navigation system, or entertainment screen that lets drivers use connected services such as Internet radio. Automakers also control the way drivers interact with technology--by voice, buttons, or other means.
Walworth said developing an information and entertainment system can cost tens of millions of dollars. "Sixty percent of that code is this underlying middleware, and it's not differentiating," he said. "It all does the same features, whether it's [for] a European OEM, a U.S. OEM, a Japanese OEM.
"It's in all the best interests of everyone in the food chain to work together on solving bugs and sharing that work back in the open-source project."
Traditionally, a company such as Visteon would work on an information/entertainment system using the same underlying technology as a competitor's but using proprietary software. The two companies would be reluctant to pick up the phone to discuss common problems.
Share bug fixes
"In an alliance we can do that. We can very openly share bug fixes," Walworth said.
Because alliance members are using open-source Linux, fixes in software bugs can be shared throughout the user community. Another benefit to carmakers is that many makers of consumer devices use Linux, he said.
Among the Genivi members are numerous consumer electronics companies, including Garmin, Nokia, Alpine Electronics, and Pioneer Electronics.
Said Walworth: "Automotive will never drive the consumer market. The consumer market moves so rapidly that we must grab that open source."
Here are some members of Genivi, an alliance of companies promoting open-source software as a way to save time and money when developing automotive infotainment systems.
- Freescale Semiconductor
- Magneti Marelli
- PSA Peugeot Citroen
(Source: Automotive News)