DETROIT -- BMW is developing an open-source platform for vehicle electronics. By taking the open-source approach, rather than using proprietary software, BMW aims to allow providers of infotainment services to develop plug-and-play applications.
BMW is asking other automakers to join in its effort.
But four other automakers that along with BMW took part in a panel discussion Tuesday at Convergence 2008, a conference on automotive electronics, are not as far along in their consideration of an open-source platform.
Of the five panelists, only BMWs said that his company would have an open-source platform in a vehicle of 200,000 or more units in the next five to seven years.
Electrical and electronics engineers from BMW, Chrysler, Ford Motor, General Motors and Honda R&D participated on the panel.
The open-source Linux system was created by BMW, Wind River Systems Inc. and Intel Corp. for the in-vehicle infotainment market.
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 vendors 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 vendor.
GM is considering whether to go the open-source route.
This is a decision we will make in the next six to 12 months, said Chris Thibodeau, GMs director of global technology engineering for electrical/electronics products. Its 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, Im on board. As a company, there are many things to study here, how we will invest and support this strategy.
Chryslers Andreas Schell, vice president of electrical/electronics engineering core, agreed that there is a need to pursue the open-source plan.
Open-source has to be a standard application of some sort, like a software development kit that you then offer to partners, Schell said.
BMWs Reichart said software vendors outside the automotive industry can provide it with applications that can then be branded by BMW.
Its one idea, Reichart 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 that 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, Fords director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering, said that 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 its Linux or Windows-based.
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 there is a proper firewall 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, he said. Maybe we need to learn more about that from BMW.