Automotive infotainment systems are very important to vehicle manufacturers today. However, the manufacturing of these systems is becoming increasingly complex, time-consuming, expensive and error-prone due to widely varying proprietary technology and very different vehicle development cycles in relation to consumer electronics. Infotainment systems in the future can only be more cost-effective if they are built on standardized platforms that are comprehensively used and reused by both the manufacturer and the supplier, eliminating differentiation caused by the use of different base technologies, differently designed user interfaces, and configuration of applications for each vehicle.
Standardization and repeated use significantly reduce manufacturing costs and development time for base technology as well as for specific innovation; quality also increases proportionately. The value-added chain as well as business models must be approved correspondingly and demand greater focus from all partners on the respective core competency.
Open Source Linux
The open source model such as Linux offers excellent support for fast innovation. Ready availability, standardized drivers and open interface standards create the basis of a development community that includes many people, companies and organizations. This community and its projects and solutions, together with commercial solution providers, create an ecosystem that continues to expand. This huge ecosystem provides the basis for application development. An example of such a community is Moblin, whose theme is "in-vehicle infotainment." Reuse and adjustment move into the foreground; new development takes place only where added value is produced. The developer can focus on innovation instead of having to reinvent the software infrastructure for each new project.
However, the use of Linux and open source for embedded systems has always given rise to challenges. Size, complexity, startup time and licensing problems with the GNU Public License have been obstructing factors. Now that the code and file size of the software in relationship to the size of the processed (and partially stored) data are no longer serious problems, these issues in regard to Linux-based in-car infotainment are being addressed along with other issues specific to the vehicle environment.
The requirement is for a robust and stable platform, with a sensible set of components as the basis for quick development of innovative applications. Open application programming interfaces must enable the integration of additional applications. Open standards help primarily with the investment protection of these applications. Also, a high-performance test environment must be available under open source.
In addition to novel applications, a standard platform would, moreover, pave the way for vehicle manufacturers and suppliers to offer new business models in preparation for new functions or software upgrades as part of routine maintenance. These could be installed via downloads. Error corrections, a new application or a new plug-in for existing applications (e.g., a codec for a new video format) can be installed in the vehicle in this way. The development of navigation devices illustrates the possibilities. In addition to the actual devices, there is an emerging market for cards and other applications. Similar developments are to be expected from in-car open source: numerous applications in the shortest possible time for a whole series of consumer devices.