Car makers cruising towards Linux

Manufacturers rev up Linux solutions

Leading automobile manufacturers in Europe are increasing plans to test-drive Linux and other open source software in cars, industry representatives said Friday.

In recent weeks, manufacturers DaimlerChrysler and in-car technology manufacturers Delphi Delco Automotive Systems and Visteon have all revealed plans to use open source software in products.

Linux distributor Red Hat, which is providing software used by Delphi Delco Automotive Systems, sees considerable growth in the embedded market. Ian Cole, professional services and finance director for Red Hat in the UK says that there is increasing interest from car manufacturers in Linux in the US and this will follow soon in Europe. "It's spreading very quickly, from our perspective," says Cole. "We see growth in Linux in servers right down to embedded devices."

This comes at a crucial point for the automobile industry, which is digesting the first industry-wide specification for intelligent devices in cars. This is expected to help manufacturers build onboard systems capable of linking mobile phones, navigation and in-car entertainment and to drive down the costs of such technology for customers. Visteon has unveiled the Mach MP3 Jukebox, a Linux-fuelled car audio system.

These moves are important for the Linux operating system and the open source programming community. In the past, the automobile industry has developed its own software and protected its source code.

Paul Buckett, a representative from Volkswagen in the UK, says that in the opinion of many manufacturers Microsoft's Windows operating systems technology is not stable enough to be implemented in cars.

The Linux operating system is developed according to the GNU General Public Licence (GPL). This means its source code can be used and modified royalty-free. Linux can easily be trimmed down and used to power devices. Consequently, there is increasing interest in embedding Linux in hardware from manufacturers in various industries.

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