BMW: In-Drive Conversation with Open Source

Oct 29, 2008

Bavarian automaker BMW has set its sights on Open Source for the infotainment packages of its cars. If it were up to BMW, all automakers would be working on a common platform.

It was in March at its "Fahrzeug IT 2008" conference that BMW first presented its plans to develop infotainment packages for its luxury cars based on Open Source technology. BMW already ventured into a cooperative undertaking with chipmaker Intel and embedded Linux vendor Wind River. Its goal was uniform ports for multimedia applications in its cars, with the basic idea to use readily available instead of costly internally developed software. At the Convergence 2008 auto show in Detroit, BMW campaigned for coordinated work among the automakers on the Open Source platform.

A cooperation spirit in new development is not uncommon among automakers at first glance. As BMW spokesperson for innovation and research Katharina Boelsterl states, "a strong collaboration is desirable especially for noncompetitive functionality." She says that carmakers generally divide their development into two spheres. One is the specific classic electronics area, such as related to drive handling characteristics, that generally stays with the manufacturer. The other sphere is infotainment electronics where this rule doesn't apply and where actual collaboration is already occurring. Boelsterl suggests that the Consumer Electronics for Automotive (CE4A) project is one example. Under the umbrella of the German VDA auto industry association, automakers are working on a common port for mobile phone, navigation device and multimedia software. The Autosar development partnership is to have similar goals. It is a forum designed for international automakers to mull over such things as drive trains and steering mechanisms for the common good.

The open source portal is an important theme for BMW's infotainment initiative, although no details have yet been released. By year's end, the automaker does promise an open, effective multimedia platform for a faster and simpler development of automotive entertainment software.

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