The world’s largest automaker ponied up a one-time fee—believed to be $20 million—and became the eighth full member of a consortium that most people do not associate with the auto industry at all.
It’s called the Open Invention Network, and its other members are Google, IBM, Red Hat , NEC, Philips, Sony, and SUSE (a unit of Britain’s Micro Focus).
Formed in 2005, OIN’s mission is to protect and encourage the collaborative development and use of open-source software, like the Linux operating system, which can be freely copied, altered, and distributed, and which no one person or company owns.
The leading open-source automotive software project is Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), which involves engineers from about 70 companies. They are working to provide a platform for infotainment and navigation systems but plan to broaden their mission eventually to provide digital instrumentation panels, too. The ultimate goal, according to a spokesperson, is to have virtually all the code in a vehicle be based on Linux, including autonomous (self-driving) systems.
Auto maker participants in AGL include Toyota and Mazda, at the highest “platinum” level of financial commitment ($500,000 per year), followed by Honda, Nissan, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar/Land Rover, Mitsubishi, and Subaru. Other participants include parts maker Denso, electronics giants Panasonic and Fujitsu, and semiconductor manufacturers Intel and NXP.
Auto-related companies—including, in the past year, Ford, Hyundai/KIA, Beijing-based truck company Beiqi Foton Motor, and semiconductor maker NXP—have also begun to sign up as “licensees” of OIN, which are participants in the community that OIN has created to accomplish its mission.