Your car is about to go open source

Automakers want to standardize on a Linux-based OS that would make vehicle infotainment systems act more like smartphones

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Jaguar Land Rover is a member of GENIVI, a nonprofit auto industry alliance committed to driving the broad adoption of an open-source IVI development platform. This week, representatives of the high-end automaker were among 180 GENIVI members who met in San Diego to discuss ways to foster broader adoption of an open-source platform. GENIVI is looking to align platform requirements, deliver reference implementations and offer certification programs to automakers.

Later this month, the Linux Foundation will hold its third annual Automotive Linux Summit in Edinburgh to discuss industry development efforts.

Carmakers today have to maintain their proprietary operating systems, which they buy from outside software providers. And that leaves them at the mercy of their vendors. For example, Microsoft supplies Ford's MySync system, so Ford would be forced to find another supplier if Microsoft decided to abandon the automotive market.

With Linux, the auto industry has a full community of open-source developers supporting and updating the software.

In 2012, the Linux Foundation launched the Tizen Project, a reference architecture and software development kit (SDK) for a Linux-based IVI. Tizen's SDK allows developers to use HTML5 to write applications for an IVI.

For example, Reaktor, a software services and consulting company headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, interfaces for existing popular mobile applications for the Tizen open source IVI; To date, Reaktor has created a user interface for the music streaming service Spotify and for the location-based social networking service Four Square.

"One shouldn't have to re-implement [a mobile app] for the infotainment system every time a new one is created. We'd like to be able to use an existing application on the phone and access it through the user interface," said Konsta Hansson, general manager at Reaktor.

"Spotify is a prime example," Hansson said. "You want to be able to control it through your IVI like any other audio source, but to also be able to perform searches and use your existing playlists easily."

Once an industry standard open-source IVI is created, work can begin in earnest on developing the user interfaces for any number of mobile apps already available.

For example, a navigation system could be integrated with a driver's email account. With that type of setup, a salesperson traveling to a meeting could, for example, be notified to expect delays because of heavy traffic. And at the same time, someone the salesperson wanted to talk to at the meeting would get the same notification.

"My car knows about my location and it has my calendar from my email," Streif said. "So, you're combining the information. It could even suggest parking lots where spaces are open."

Spotify
Reaktor's concept design for a user interface to Spotify via a Linux-based IVI.

Lucas Mearian covers storage, disaster recovery and business continuity, financial services infrastructure and health care IT for Computerworld. Follow Lucas on Twitter at  @lucasmearian, or subscribe to Lucas's RSS feed . His email address is lmearian@computerworld.com.

See more by Lucas Mearian on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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