Open Source Development for Automotive

  Jan 19, 2017 6:53:53 AM

Open source development philosophy stems from the idea of freedom; contrary to what many believe – the idea of free software. That is freedom to run it, study it, change it, and redistribute copies with or without changes. It is not a sense of altruism that led to the founding Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) but a sense of freedom from the control of any one commercial OS provider.

AGL is an open collaboration project to enable rapid innovation in the automotive industry by developing reference distributions on multiple hardware platforms for applications like In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI), Cluster, HUD, Telematics, Control Systems thereby, providing a 80% head-start to production. Automotive OEMs and Tier-1s just need to customize the UI, look and feel specific to the brand. In a way, AGL mitigates the first three steps of a production process i.e. source/package selection, cross-compilation for a target platform and resource separation, making it as competitive as any commercial software. According to a research report by IHS Automotive Linux market share is going to rise from about 12% in 2016 to 50% in 2022.

Automobiles nowadays are employing large number of ECUs, thereby becoming increasingly complex. In order to put this in perspective a premium automobile has more lines of code than an airplane or fighter jet by an order of magnitude – roughly 10:1. According to Inside EVs, infotainment, navigation and HVAC system alone account for about 95% of code in luxury cars. Exponential increase in overall system complexity is decelerating the rate of innovation and feature introduction, increasing R&D and sustenance costs. Automotive OEMS and Tier-1s can reduce R&D cost and time to market by adopting open source strategy in their development process.

There have been Linux based automotive platforms like GENIVI for some years now, but they have not been that successful due to their focus on specification and compliance rather than a reference software development. GENIVI specification also includes proprietary components like compliant software beyond the platform scope for e.g. HMI, Application and product specific platform components. In a way, AGL provides the same open source advantages for automobiles like Android for smart devices/phones:

  • Enables faster development with higher quality code and lower costs
  • Speeds up new product introductions (NPIs) for companies, by freeing people up to innovate rather than every vendor spending time recreating the same core platform.
  • Allows reuse and redeployment of solutions
  • Wide adoption of software by vendors, suppliers and customers due to standard open source architectures, tools and components
  • Easy to update and maintain
  • Flexibility and adaptability to market needs
  • Aids business model evolution and networking across the automotive supply chain
  • Provides code transparency and reduces bargaining power of supplier

We, at Sasken, are also observing a trend wherein more and more companies are adopting open source development strategy to get most out of ‘external R&D’ and reduced time-to-market. We have already integrated our telematics solution on AGL 2.0. This solution has been already ported on both x86 and ARM based automotive platforms. It has also been selected as one of the finalist for the Nokia Innovation Day, 2016.

Where Linux based automotive platforms scores big compared to safety critical commercial RTOS is applications with unbounded data. POSIX based message queue implementations results in lot of context switching, stream oriented mechanisms like pipes/tunnels or sockets in Linux make it easier. AGL also enables an ecosystem of global application developers and hardware suppliers, whereas most of the commercial OS just provide a one stop service.

We are not discounting commercial software that has its own advantages like:

  • Reduced BOM
  • Reduced time spent on platform compared to applications
  • Safety certifications
  • Protects investment
  • Reduced exposure to GPL and copy-left compulsions

AGL provides an alternative, another freedom of OS choice and we at Sasken are embracing and enhancing it thereby, accelerating the roadmap and reducing time to market.

Author: Debashis Panigrahi, Specialist (Telematics and V2X), Automotive Portfolio

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