Open Source

Automotive Grade Linux brings open source to the auto industry

Jack Wallen explores how Automotive Grade Linux could benefit both the auto industry and the open source community.

Automotive Grade Linux

Open source seems to be popping up everywhere. The collaborative nature of the license makes for the perfect foundation for which to develop a system, platform, application, etc. And open source isn't content with being confined to your PC, laptop, or mobile device. Open source wants to travel... and travel it will. A brand new distribution of Linux, Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), is coming to fruition that targets the automotive industry. I'm not talking about embedded systems running the machines that build the cars you drive, but the cars themselves.

That's right, a full-blown Linux distribution will be used throughout the automotive industry to help drivers easily interact with their cars. Imagine a Linux-powered dashboard at your fingertips. But let's take that one step further — an open initiative that would even allow end users to add, remove, and tinker with the software powering their machines.

Want a mobile advertising or broadcasting station? Open source could allow that. Don't like the way the manufacturer laid out the audio controls on your console? You can change that.

I'm not saying that's the reality as of yet. But with the automotive industry having such open source tools at their fingertips, the limits of imagination have been unleashed.

Of course, it's not just about imagination and being able to add a full LAMP stack on your VW Beetle. This is also about collaboration, standards, and ease of implementation. In no other ecosystem are those three ideals better met than in open source.

We all know the automotive industry must follow the trends that guide consumers. The single most important trend at the moment is connectedness. All people connected to all services at all times. In order for auto manufacturers to keep up with one another, their products will have to be connected. What better way to implement the level of connectedness consumers demand than with open source? AGL could well be the solution for this.

This level of interest in open source places an official stamp of denial to the claims that open source has no business in, well, business. Open source not only has become a major driver in the world of business, it now has major business with what we (and business) drive.

There might, of course, be a few glitches in this system. Not everyone in the world of business is as ideological as the open-source community. Some auto manufacturer would be more than glad to get their hands on AGL and exploit what has already been done to release their own, proprietary system. That same manufacturer would also be more than happy to spread Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) among a community attempting to embrace AGL. Once the spreaders of FUD have turned a profit, they can easily point their fingers and say "See this bottom line?"

Because we all know that bottom line is the only thing that counts. To the dogs with innovation, community, and concern for the greater good.

In my eyes, AGL is a perfect example of what open source is and can be. With enough time, the auto industry could have an ideal solution for reaching that mecca of connectedness they desire — and consumers would have a reliable, secure system that they can personalize and trust. It's a win-win all around. Although the general public really doesn't care if a system is open or closed, it would be nice if the automakers helped spread the word. Open source needs this level of recognition.

Consumer recognition.

That is the one area where open source still lacks. AGL could finally bring that to the table. If it does, all bets are off as to the limits of what open source can achieve.

What do you think? Would getting open source deeply embedded into the auto industry be a huge win, or would it go completely unnoticed? Share your thoughts in the discussion thread below.

About Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.

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