Home News Featured Blogs Jim Zemlin Automotive Linux Leaves Microsoft and Blackberry QNX in the Dust

Automotive Linux Leaves Microsoft and Blackberry QNX in the Dust

Sales of automotive Linux are expected to rise to 53.7 million units in 2020, overtaking Microsoft and Blackberry QNX in the global automotive infotainment market, according to a new report from IHS Automotive.

“The auto industry prefers OS platforms in which it can control direction and features,” according to IHS. “Such control is not possible in proprietary OS platforms.”

This newfound control is allowing automakers to innovate at new levels and has helped fuel the Motor Trend Magazine’s car of the year for two years running. Both the Cadillac CTS sedan (2014 Motor Trend car of the year) and the all-electric Tesla Model S (won in 2013) run Linux.

IHS-automotive-linux-graphicTogether they demonstrate that innovative minds from the automotive and open source communities are coming together to produce award-winning cars that impress critics and consumers alike. The IHS Automotive numbers prove it out.

Consumers expect automotive technology that easily integrates with their mobile devices and rivals that user experience. As a result, the automotive industry's manufacturing cost has been shifting to the software and away from hardware. The Motor Trend cars of the year demonstrate the use of open source software that is developed collaboratively to address this shift and deliver unique and new experiences to the consumer.

GM's Cadillac CTS boasts the same Debian Linux-based CUE (Cadillac User Experience) in-vehicle infotainment system that earlier this year hit the market in the Cadillac XTS sedan and that’s now present in most Cadillac models. Tesla’s 2013 Model S includes an impressive 17-inch flat-screen computer running a custom-built Linux OS.  

These advanced IVI systems provide all of the advanced features we want in luxury cars, from voice recognition and touch-powered controls, to navigation and telematics data from all of the car’s sensors. And they help directly position automakers to compete globally in a rapidly changing market. The CTS, for example, is part of Cadillac's new wave of products that have pushed sales up 27 percent so far this year.

Cadillac CTS“(The CTS) has once again successfully evolved in order to remain contemporary and competitive well into the foreseeable future,” writes Motor Trend in its January 2014 issue announcing the car of the year.

GM and Tesla are not alone in embracing open source in order to meet this demand. Some of the world's largest automakers including Nissan, Jaguar-Land Rover and Toyota are participating in Automotive Grade Linux to develop a common, Linux-based open source platform for IVI software development.  BMW, Peugeot, Volvo and others are working on standards and code for Linux based vehicles through an organization called GENIVI as well.

This disruption fueled by collaboration and open source software is what places Linux inside Motor Trend's car of the year two years in a row. And it’s this work that will continue to shape the way we interact with our cars well into the future.




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  • Spaceman Spiff Said:

    While the Linux OS is open source and QNX is not (but easily licensed for porting to custom chip sets), QNX fully supports open source applications. I have ported many to QNX from Unix/Linux over the years. Also, if you need hard real time operations, Linux is just not an option, where QNX is. Jim, I have a lot of respect for you, and am a Linux Foundation paying member, but I am also QNX licensee (serial number 004) since 1982. I have also been a QNX OEM in the past, and have written a lot of real-time code for QNX that runs many safety-critical and manufacturing systems world-wide. I also have written Linux code for ARM processors that control warehouse systems (near real time). Choose the right tool for the job. And to that I will admit that Linux would work well for car infotainment systems, but I would NEVER trust it for automobile control systems!

  • Tim Jordan Said:

    Why not trust Linux. The United States Military uses Linux for mission critical systems. Microsoft is use by the secretaries to type letters on but Linux is what operates radar, tanks, ships, aircraft and submarines. I would trust the US governments research on reliability and robustness. Besides one can't not trust in the direction in which Microsoft is going. Look at Windows 8 for example. People have no control of what Microsoft is going to do next. Microsoft can bring down their clients with them and the probably could not care less.

  • kcg Said:

    Linux cannot be trusted because it's not enough hard-realtime. For soft-realtime or even general enterprise usage, it's truested of course! :-)

  • John Bowling Said:

    I would never trust an MS product, given the major amount of poor coding and malware. Linux, in default options may not be real time, but it can be modified to change or correct anything. And it can go a long ways towards fixing poor driving habits - ignoring pedestrians, slow reaction times, texting, talking with passengers, etc. rather than observing what is happening. The human is the absolute worst there is as an automotive control system, and none of them should ever be licensed to drive!

  • John Said:

    Yes, you can build hard real time applications on Linux, just check out RTAI:

  • JLK Said:

    Hello Spaceman Spiff QNX licensee (serial number 004), was it the time when the company was known as QSSL Quantum Software Systems Limited? I ordered a demo 3.5in diskette that had Towers of Hanoi on it. I passed it to the software team and eventually they went with QNX + Arcnet cards, etc. (I had left the company by then). Nice to know some of us are around. thanks.

  • JLK Said:

    Hello J Zemlin, I agree with Spaceman that QNX is little understood and Linux has so much momentum and still building-up momentum behind itself. In the early years, QNX took a lot of beating because it went the way of micro-kernel and message passing architecture. Truthfully, it wasn't a holistic debate which focused on performance but an ideological one. I believe L Torvalds also had a great debate with Prof A Tanenbaum in which Torvalds pooh-poohed the micro-kernel architecture. Today we can see that the monolithic architecture choice in Linux is going to break just as Moore's law is hitting a plateau! I'm betting that someone, somewhere is going to begin mooting the idea of moving off Torvalds monolithic kernel to the Minix micro-kernel sooner than later and port the entire GNU software to follow... thanks.

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