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Many view the automotive industry’s objectives as a challenging dichotomy. The industry aims to advance the concept of the software-defined vehicle by providing the latest advancements in computing technology to enable functional and safety features, while at the same time holding these features to strict ISO standards that govern the functional safety of electronic systems within road vehicles. 

These opposing aims slow the development process, and limit industry access to established insiders. Open source and, in particular, automotive Linux have a potential to fulfill both of these general requirements in ways that traditional proprietary systems have not managed. Several trends are emerging in 2022 to address these challenges. 

Driving open innovation in automotive software

First, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and suppliers understand the advantages of utilizing the rapid advancements in cloud and IoT computing to upgrade in-vehicle systems, including:

  • Consolidating workloads into fewer, larger computers rather than dozens of discrete electronic control units (ECU)

  • Securing workload isolation using managed containers

  • Delivering system updates more safely over the air

  • Automated driving through artificial intelligence (AI)

These are just a few of the software-defined features that are being developed through new open working groups such as the Eclipse Software-Defined Vehicle (SDV) working group, the  Scalable Open Architecture for Embedded Edge (SOAFEE) initiative led by Arm and industry leaders across the automotive supply chain, as well as OS-specific initiatives like Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) and the CentOS Automotive Special Interest Group

Second, as we have said before, the functional safety standards specific to automotive computing were written and adopted long before modern hardware and software advances existed. These standards will need to be updated to accommodate pre-existing complex operating systems like Linux, using proven standards development processes. 

To complement these activities, Enabling Linux in Safety Applications (ELISA) is working on changes within the Linux kernel community to better accommodate functional safety standards for many use cases, including automotive, medical and IoT devices, and more.

Third, automotive computing is expanding beyond the borders of the physical car itself, dividing loosely among several categories of devices, each with their own communities forming projects with varying degrees of openness:

  • Onboard in-vehicle systems (edge & IoT systems)

  • Offboard data processing systems (edge & hybrid cloud)

  • In-vehicle network systems (security-focused)

  • Advanced vehicle manufacturing systems (interconnected systems & robotics)

  • Dealer network (next-generation enterprise business systems)

  • Computing systems for advanced analysis that tie into all of these

In short, the shift to the software-defined vehicle brings forward sophisticated use cases that previous proprietary systems cannot easily accommodate. Through collaboration across the automotive, cloud, IoT computing, and safety communities, Red Hat believes it will be possible to extend open source practices into the vehicle to create faster scale and simultaneously provide consolidation.  

Red Hat encourages all stakeholders to participate in related open source and standards projects and to learn how open source is shaping the next generation of automotive computing by participating in the CentOS Automotive Special Interest Group (SIG).


Jeffrey "Jefro" Osier-Mixon is a Senior Principal Community Architect within the Office of the CTO at Red Hat, focusing on the automotive and energy industry verticals. A 30-year industry veteran, he worked at the Linux Foundation on RISC-V and LF Energy and at Intel Corporation on a number of open source projects, including the Yocto Project, Zephyr Project, and Project ACRN. 

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