Eclipse Foundation Envisions an Ecosystem for the "Software-Defined Vehicle"

The Eclipse Foundation is reaching out to tech industry leaders with an open invitation to join a cutting-edge effort to build an open-source ecosystem for developers working on solutions for the "software-defined vehicle."

The term software-defined vehicle refers, essentially, to an automobile with features and functions that are primarily enabled through software. It's nomenclature emerging from the ongoing transformation of the automobile from a product that is mainly hardware-based to a software-centric electronic device—a "server on wheels."

It has been estimated that top-of-the-line cars already rely on as much as 150 million lines of code running 100-plus electronic control units (ECUs), not to mention sensors, cameras, radar, light detection and ranging (LIDAR) devices, and wireless technologies.

"There needs to be an industry platform for designing and developing these automotive systems," Mike Milinkovich, the foundation's executive director, told ADTmag.

Microsoft and Bosch are among the companies helping to launch a nascent Eclipse working group focused on creating what the foundation hopes will foster "a vendor-agnostic, open-source ecosystem with a vivid, contributing community focused on building the foundation for a new era in automotive software development."

With this project, the foundation is seeking to support a collaborative effort among the major players in both the IT and auto industries to develop an open-source, in-vehicle application runtime stack, cloud-based vehicle operations, and highly integrated development toolchains. The ultimate goal of the initiative, Milinkovich says, is to scale in-vehicle software across vehicle models, product lines, brands, organizations, and time.

"This is about creating a set of specifications and open-source building blocks for developing the software-defined-vehicle architectures of the future," he said. "It's also about creating a level playing field that allows the entire automotive industry to participate. Too many initiatives in the past were defined by a single manufacturer and their supply chain. We're inviting everyone to participate."

It's also about getting in at the "ground-level" of this new ecosystem's development, Milinkovich said, ensuring that each of the working group's members have an equal voice in this project.

"With digital technologies unlocking the future of accessible, sustainable and safe transportation experiences, mobility services providers are increasingly looking to differentiate through software innovation," said Ulrich Homann, corporate vice president and Distinguished Architect at Microsoft, in a statement. "By standardizing the development, deployment and management of software-defined vehicles through collaboration in the open-source space, businesses can bring tailored mobility solutions to their customers faster and can focus on innovations."
Technological, organizational, and cultural innovations "pave the way for the software-defined vehicle," said Sven Kappel, vice president and Head of Project Software Defined Vehicle at Bosch. "The use of open-source software and technology neutrality are the pillars for a strong community to actively shape the transformation in automotive software engineering together with our customers and partners," he added. "For Bosch, collaboration across industries is key to realize the software-defined vehicle."

The roster of founding members also includes Red Hat, SUSE, Blackberry, EPAM Systems, and ETAS.

Blackberry QNX, a founding member of the foundation, sees the collaboration a working group would promote as "an important factor in influencing next-generation software-defined vehicle architectures,” said Grant Courville, the company's vice-president of product management and strategy.

SUSE believes that defining and developing the software-defined vehicle will "transform the automotive industry, enabling manufacturers to truly address the rapidly changing concerns and pain points the market is experiencing today," said Thomas Di Giacomo, SUSE's chief technology and product officer.

The Eclipse Foundation already has deep roots in the automotive community. Many carmakers and their suppliers are members, including Daimler, Toyota, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens, and Bosch.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].