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Open Sourcing Should Reduce Vehicle-Infotainment Costs

BMW leads the infotainment initiative; Daimler is on board; GM and PSA are expected to join in.

Infotainment suppliers will have to change the way they do business, following BMW AG’s recent announcement it has joined with Intel Corp., Wind River Systems Inc. and others in an effort to promote an open-source infotainment and communication platform based on the Linux operating system.

BMW plans to implement its first infotainment system based on the new platform in 2011, followed by launches from other auto makers, including Daimler AG by 2013, according to the Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics. General Motors Corp. and PSA Peugeot Citroen also are likely to participate in the initiative, the story says.

Auto makers want an open-source development route for infotainment and communication systems to reduce the cost of updating the features and functions associated with embedded devices.

The infotainment system must be capable of handling software updates throughout the life of the vehicle at a time when software content is mushrooming, the story says.

The amount of software in a typical radio-navigation system will grow from 1.2 million lines of code in the ’08 model year to 2.8 million lines of code in ’10.

Working with BMW on the new infotainment platform is Magneti Marelli SpA and Delphi Corp.

Daimler has opted to cooperate with BMW in the infotainment platform initiative after having tried previously to work with Microsoft Corp., the story says. The software giant chose not to proceed because the payback on its investment was insufficient.

“We want a software framework that is closer to the PC world and to portable devices,” Peter Haeussermann, director of electrical/electronics and telematics for Mercedes-Benz Cars Development, is quoted as saying.

“And we don’t want to always reinvent the same players, radio and even the navigation every time, while creating and then fixing the same bugs.”

Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor producer, has established a new in-vehicle infotainment segment within the open source community website for software vendors and Linux users to share solutions and contribute code.

BMW is proposing a complete realignment of the value chain and started work on the initiative with Intel in 2006 and brought in Wind River a year later, the story says.

BMW presented plans for a standard open-source infotainment platform in June at the Advances in Automotive Electronics conference in Ludwigsburg, Germany, and says the presentation drew a great deal of interest. BMW and its partners now seek to broaden the collaboration by encouraging competition and creating alternatives to present offerings.

Wind River products include an optimized Linux run-time operating system in an open-source framework, as well as testing and development tools.

While Microsoft software runs nearly 20% of in-vehicle navigation systems, Linux could end up with two-thirds of the global market for embedded infotainment software platforms, the story says.

The initiative, which would lead to significantly less expensive in-vehicle infotainment systems, seems likely to succeed considering the success BMW has had pioneering such industry standards as FlexRay and Autosar, the Hansen Report says.

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