Automotive forecasts of the Eclipse Foundation Open Source in the automotive industry
03.03.2022A guest comment by Michael Plagge *
Hardly any other industry is currently undergoing such a profound change as the automotive industry. The Eclipse Foundation is trying to predict what role the open source community is likely to play in this.
Innovations resulting from the open source idea could have a lasting impact on the automotive sector.
Prediction 1: Catena-X will have a real chance.
“Open collaboration” under a roof like that of Catena-X has the potential to revolutionize the way companies work together and still compete with each other when it comes to non-differentiating, non-competing functions.
As a European alliance for data exchange in the automotive industry, Catena-X sees itself as an ecosystem to which the entire automotive value chain – automotive manufacturers and suppliers, dealers and equipment suppliers as well as providers of applications, platforms and infrastructure – can contribute. Catena-X is developing primarily at the contractual level and will have a positive impact on supply chains by making them much more efficient.
Political factors play a big role in the automotive industry. Nevertheless, the initiative has a good chance of success, especially since all parties involved – from car manufacturers to OEMs to suppliers – are very committed to this project. They seem to have understood that cooperation on non-differentiating characteristics allows for more competitiveness on the differentiating characteristics.
In a world of global competition, the pressure to suffer is great, and the motivation for cooperation is correspondingly great. It is promising that organizations that are not necessarily regarded as automotive companies also belong to Catena-X. For the Eclipse Foundation, this is a clear sign that once the system is up and running, it could also be applied to other areas where supply chain tracking is concerned – for example, in the clothing or pharmaceutical industries.
No wonder, then, that even in these difficult times, companies make considerable investments. With hundreds of developers and funding from companies and the public sector, the Eclipse Foundation will be able to abolish the historically grown, error-prone methods of manual data transfer from one system to another that have slowed down the industry so far.
Although the complexity of the automotive industry and its traditional competitiveness may stand in the way of Catena-X’s success, the Eclipse Foundation still believes that this approach is the right one. The time is right, and those responsible seem ready to give him a chance.
Prediction 2: Cooperation and competition will change significantly.
Nowadays, a car is much more than just a car. It provides entertainment, information and work environment at the same time. It becomes a user interface as well as a means to get from A to B. Therefore, there is a growing need for cooperation between big tech and the automotive industry.
The approach to which the automotive industry has become so accustomed will change, because it is no longer necessarily the car manufacturers who will sell the cars. You are no longer at the top of the pyramid. Car manufacturers could soon be replaced by software and platform companies that operate a vehicle fleet – and also have access to the end customer. The car manufacturers would then only produce cars and would no longer have any visibility with the end customer in the future.
In order to achieve increasing size and relevance, it is therefore essential to build a common platform that integrates other industries – not only for technological reasons, but also against the background of scarce human resources. For example, software developers in high demand should not be engaged in the development of non-differentiating features, but should concentrate on what makes the difference in the competition in front of the end customer.
As an open source organization with many projects that will define the future of the automotive industry, we see a great opportunity in this new software–based approach and the new model of cooperation – not only because it is strongly supported by influential parties in the automotive industry, but also because, in our view, it is the only way forward.
Prediction 3: Open source alone is not the silver bullet for autonomous driving.
The development around autonomous driving is certainly an important step towards the future of mobility. However, the real strength of open source for the automotive industry lies in other areas: for example, the Eclipse Foundation’s OpenADx working group implements interfaces between development steps.
Developments in the field of autonomous driving are currently still fragmented and the toolchain is often driven by start-ups that rely on the marketing and sale of proprietary solutions; a huge hurdle for car manufacturers when it comes to finding a reusable, sustainable approach to the development of autonomous driving functions.
Given this fragmentation, the open source approach could therefore make existing technologies more compatible. Operational managers would be able to select the best components and replace them if necessary. In order to overcome this complexity, open source cooperation consortia such as the OpenADX working group can provide valuable suggestions to the industry. As of today, this will reduce the pressure, but it does not solve the complex issues that stand in the way of the reality of autonomous driving.
In summary, the Eclipse Foundation considers the potential for open source in the automotive industry to be significantly large in 2022. In addition to the above forecasts, she sees further development opportunities in the following three areas:
Regarding vehicle software and back-end, the Eclipse Foundation considers its initiatives around the software-defined vehicle to be real “game changers”. In production, she is heavily involved in projects related to digital twins and many other key technologies.
The third area in which open source technologies have the potential to change the automotive industry in the long term concerns the use of “general purpose” – i.e. not more automotive-specific – IT. And that’s exactly what Catena-X is all about.
* Michael Plagge joined the Eclipse Foundation in January 2021 as Director Ecosystem Development. He is responsible for the maintenance and growth of the Eclipse ecosystem with a special focus on the DACH region. He joined the Eclipse Foundation after four years in various positions at Alibaba Group. From 2013 to 2016 he was General Manager Elektrobit Automotive (Shanghai) Ltd.