European Automakers Big on Open-Source Software: Survey

A survey conducted by BearingPoint and sponsored by Black Duck software shows that European automakers are relying on open-source software. However, governance is an issue.

A new survey of the European automotive industry indicated widespread use of free and open-source software (FOSS) but pointed to gaps in the FOSS governance and software asset management processes across software supply chains.

The survey, conducted by European-based management consultancy BearingPoint and underwritten by Black Duck Software, a provider of open-source governance solutions, found that 85 percent of those polled said they use FOSS, but only 2.9 percent have open-source compliance tools in place.

Moreover, study participants representing 50 percent of the European Union automotive ecosystem, including auto manufacturers (OEMs), Tier 1 suppliers and automotive software developers, indicated that drivers of FOSS use for them include competitive differentiation, reduced development costs, increased customization agility and avoidance of software vendor lock-in.

Although survey respondents indicated increasing reliance on FOSS€”59 percent use FOSS in products with an additional 35 percent evaluating FOSS use€”an overwhelming majority had no structured way to ensure compliance and automated control of FOSS deployments. While many have processes to govern traditional software development and manage requirements, very few manage the deployment or selection of FOSS components with the same rigor.

"This study demonstrates that open source should be an important part of any software strategy in the automotive industry," Dirk Riehle, head of the Open Source Institute and professor at the University of Erlangen/Nuremberg, who scientifically guided the study, said in a statement. "By publishing the data, companies throughout the automotive ecosystem can learn from each other about the prevalence of open-source use, and the need to properly manage open-source compliance and governance."

Concerning supplier management, while the majority of companies using FOSS check traditional software supplier deliverables against specifications, only one-third perform supplier audits and less than 25 percent require a FOSS bill of materials from suppliers. Even fewer check for FOSS license compliance€”less than one in 10€”across their software supply chains, Black Duck said.

"The accelerated use of FOSS has encouraged and enabled innovation in automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers," said Tim Yeaton, president and CEO of Black Duck, in a statement. "As the automotive industry continues to increase its use of FOSS across digital supply chains, it must adopt and embrace policies and processes to manage FOSS with the same rigor and commitment as it did for Lean Manufacturing and ISO-9000 best practices with traditional auto supply chains."

Software is pervasive in automotive platforms and components. Many of today€™s cars host more than 100 million lines of software code. According to a report by the GENIVI Alliance, an automotive industry association driving the development and adoption of an open in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) platform, nearly 70 percent of this software is found in the "head unit," the telematics and IVI subsystem. Moreover, in-vehicle infotainment systems are increasingly being developed on FOSS-based platforms, such as GENIVI and Android.

"Automotive OEMs have benefited from modular and platform-based car architectures for many years,€ Alexander Krzepinski, head of product lifecycle management at BearingPoint, said in a statement. €œThe concept of platforms and reuse of modules and parts not only makes sense for mechanic and electronic components, but also and foremost for software, which has an evolving stake in the automotive industry. Our recent study about free and open-source software management has confirmed the trend that more and more automotive companies try to accomplish significant cost reductions and competitive advantage through adoption of FOSS."

A summary of Black Duck study results is available here.

Earlier this month, Black Duck announced that is an active member of the GENIVI Alliance. The company also announced that it has a strategic partnership with MontaVista Software, a specialist in embedded Linux-based OSS platforms, that offers the Automotive Technology Platform (ATP), a GENIVI-compliant IVI platform.

Leading Black Duck's automotive market development is Boris Geller, a technology executive with more than 20 years experience building high-growth global software and services businesses. Previously, Geller served in senior corporate development, marketing, strategy, R&D and architecture roles at Oracle/BEA Systems, DEC and several Silicon Valley startups. He has a strong knowledge of OSS, cloud and supply chain offerings across a number of industries in the United States, Europe and China, as well as extensive experience with operating systems, middleware, virtualization and enterprise application platforms software, Black Duck said.