DETROIT--BMW AG is asking automakers to work together to make vehicle electronics more innovative.
The automaker is developing an open-source platform for vehicle electronics to allow providers of information and entertainment services to develop plug-and-play applications.
BMW is asking other automakers to join in its effort and abandon the practice of using proprietary software for platform development.
It made its pitch during a panel discussion on auto electronics here last week.
Of the five panelists at Convergence 2008, a conference on automotive electronics, only BMW's engineer said his company would have an open-source platform in a vehicle of 200,000 or more units in five to seven years.
Electrical and electronics engineers from BMW, Chrysler LLC, Ford Motor, General Motors, and Honda R&D Co. also participated on the panel.
The open-source Linux system was created by BMW, Wind River Systems, and Intel for the in-vehicle infotainment market.
Open for speed
"We were convinced we had to develop an open platform that would allow for open software since the speed in the infotainment and entertainment industry requires us to be on a much faster track," said Gunter Reichart, BMW vice president of driver assistance, body electronics, and electrical networks. "We invite other OEMs to join with us, to exchange with us. We are open to exchange with others."
An open-source platform fosters innovation by allowing software suppliers and Linux users to share ideas, fix problems, and contribute code. The result is a platform that offers plug-and-play compatibility for infotainment products from any supplier.
GM is considering whether to go the open-source route.
"This is a decision we will make in the next 6 to 12 months," said Chris Thibodeau, GM's director of global technology engineering for electrical/electronics products. "It's a great opportunity for us. I think this can really advance a lot of software development and bring a lot of innovation to the vehicle. So, personally, I'm on board.
"As a company, there are many things to study here, how we will invest and support this strategy."
Chrysler's Andreas Schell, vice president of electrical/electronics engineering core, agreed that the open-source plan needs to be pursued.
"Open-source has to be a standard application of some sort, like a software development kit that you then offer to partners," Schell said.
BMW's Reichart said software companies outside the automotive industry can provide the automaker with applications that then can be branded by BMW. "It's one idea," he said. "We have not yet set up a fixed concept. We are open to suggestions. It will take some time to develop."
Jim Buczkowski said Ford, through its partnership with Microsoft Corp. that produced the Sync system, already has 280,000 vehicles on the road with an open system.
Buczkowski, Ford's director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering, said he is not as familiar with what BMW is doing.
"But if the principle is to create an environment out there where a lot of developers, a lot of folks have the capability to develop applications, I think we are talking the same thing, whether it's Linux or Windows-based," he said.
But other automotive electronics experts have said Sync is not a fully open system.
Honda also uses a Windows system, said Toyohei Nakajima, senior chief engineer at Honda R&D. But to allow outside developers to provide plug-and-play software, automakers must make certain that a proper firewall is in place to prevent access to other systems in the vehicle.
"We also need to make sure who will be responsible for such an open system architecture," Nakajima said. "Maybe we need to learn more about that from BMW."
(Via: Automotive News)