The car of 2013 is different from the one I learned to drive, a 1974 Ford Maverick with rear federal bumpers, aluminum wheels and an AM/FM radio. Beginning with a couple of audio podcasts showcasing Mercedes Benz and Ottawa-based Star Motors dealership, my research of the "connected car" has been unbelievably exciting. My most recent audio podcast interview is with Rudolf Streif, Director of Embedded Solutions at The Linux Foundation. According to the world's most talked about open source organization, people expect the same connectivity in their cars as they do in their homes and offices. "From dashboard computing to In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI), automobiles are becoming the latest wireless devices ... but on wheels, truly mobile.*
Around 01:54:00 in the mp3 file connected car audio podcast, Rudi gives a kind compliment to * Mark Spencer, the creator of Asterisk, a Linux-based open-sourced PBX software. He describes the Linux Foundation as nonprofit industry consortium to protect, promote and advance Linux and open source. Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, along with the globe of open source developers have an ongoing goal to protect Linux open source by keeping it free. Businesses around the world depend upon the power of this software, and because it is free as opposed to proprietary, millions of products and services have been launched very quickly.
Training is one of the most utilized methods of promoting and advancing the use of Linux software. Mr. Streif facilitates the "embedded solutions" aspect. Rudi says in making the case for open source and the connected cars, "At least 95 % of the software in place with a connected car is not apparent to the consumer, the customer who is using it ... It doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money on that % of the software when it is not visible to the end-user. You want to focus your resources, money and time into developing what is valuable to your customers."
The price to add "infotainment" set up to a new car starts at $2000. One's smart phone can already make phone calls, can assist in navigation, can control the temperature in one's car, can enable listening to music. Why pay for the $2000 "infotainment" when consumers already have on a $200 cell phone everything that can do all this? (This is the question asked most often by anyone being introduced to the concept of the "connected car.")
"Linux assists car manufacturers, OEMs and others to focus on value-added services and features and to leverage what IT and telecommunications industry already have done for them. An example is Android which is a Linux-based system. Everything we really need to make phone calls and emails ... you already have in Android Linux authorizing system stack freely available to you. Why do you want to re-invent the wheel?" Rudi queries.
"The competition for carmaker A is not carmaker B. It is really the smart phone makers, the Samsungs and the Apples ... handing all this functionality to their customers at a fraction of the cost," he continues.
Mr. Streif notes, "There is a Linux-based automotive workgroup that brings together the automotive industry, communications industry and open source community to advance Linux and open source in the automotive industry. More needs to be done in the Linux and open source to make it fit for the automotive industry ... It's about enabling engineers working in the automotive companies and their suppliers to get them familiarized with open source."
One current open source project, that began in April 2013 at a Linux Foundation Summit in San Francisco, is with Land Rover, a British car manufacturer that specializes in four-wheel-drive vehicles. It began with an automotive infotainment contest that invited global open source developers to participate in. Winners of this automotive infotainment contest were announced at the Automotive Linux Summit in Tokyo: Tata Elxsi, Ford Motor Company, and Reaktor.
When asked what is his opinion on current connected car trends and the future, Rudi responds that we do not know what the consumer wants tomorrow, but we do know ... when customers want something, they want it now. Platforms need to be available to enable these features and services quickly. He believes the connected car is a new way for OEMs, after market and other industry players to provide value-added services that consumers want.
An example of what is in the future according to Mr. Streif? Some "value-add" that the connected car can offer say ... for a salesperson. She is driving to her next appointment. Her connected car is able to provide integrated services such as give traffic updates, make suggestions to call or email contacts about being late, and share best parking locations that have empty spots.
There are many highly charged debates surrounding the connected car and not just open source versus proprietary platforms. Another is that of the wireless communication of high-speed data choices that include LTE, 3G, and so on. Connected Cars Conference, scheduled June 25 - 26, 2013 is colocated with LTE World Summit in Amsterdam. Rudi Streif believes that LTE needs to create open standards for connecting cars to the cloud services which will insure interoperability across car makers and models that cross country borders.
Rudolf will be presenting some of the topics such as the importance of open platforms and standards (as opposed to proprietary) for sustainable business models discussed in the Linux Foundation DIDX audio podcast on the second day of the Connected Cars Conference 2013.