Challenges and opportunities as the automotive industry morphs into the software business

(c) Trdina

Remember when a car was just a car? The automotive industry was all about how fast, how far, how safe, and how reliable their cars were. And, they got very good at it, having decades of expertise in developing and promoting safety standards and performance benchmarks to ensure the safety – and loyalty – of their customers.

Enter the connected car. Now, the industry finds itself at a crossroads. The fact is, the connected car is here to stay, and as it is with virtually everything we depend on in our lives today, the expertise needed to make things safe, secure, and reliable has shifted.

The expertise in the traditional automotive supply chain was different – you needed experts in manufacturing and software, not experts in networking, wireless technologies, big data, and all the other trappings of modern vehicles. This is a knowledge gap that many companies in the supply chain are scrambling to bridge.

The rising open source software (OSS) movement could represent the most secure, stable future as the automotive industry adapts to the reality of the connected car

According to a recent survey done by Ponemon Institute on behalf of Rogue Wave Software and Security Innovation, 72% of automotive developers think that automakers are not as knowledgeable about secure software development as other industries. When the automotive developers themselves say this, the need for improvement is palpable.

Believe it or not, the rising open source software (OSS) movement could represent the most secure, stable future as the automotive industry adapts to the reality of the connected car. Without acknowledging it, OSS is becoming more prevalent in the automotive industry, but software developers don’t talk about it because it’s not considered safe, reliable, or maintainable. It’s time for the automotive industry to come out from behind the curtain. It’s time to fully embrace the use of OSS in automotive software. When done correctly, using OSS in your code is something to be boastful about – the industry should no longer shy away.

What developers in some industries have come to embrace is that open source can help companies complete development time much faster, while also improving the profit margin. It’s time for the automotive industry to join the elite – to join in the list of industries that are successfully filling the knowledge gap. So, where should it start?

First, the automotive industry needs to acknowledge and embrace OSS. By currently not doing so, organisations are putting themselves at risk. Open source is capable of helping developers create more secure, safer code for cars. Why? Because software developers can choose OSS packages that have security built in, can use only those packages that have been tested and approved by the organisation, and can then use those packages repeatedly.

By embracing OSS, organisations can empower their development teams – giving them the freedom to safely produce secure code, faster.

The knowledge gap started because developers can’t be experts in everything. This hasn’t changed. The way organisations tackle this gap is what can change. By allowing developers to use OSS, you’re allowing their toolset to become a lot bigger, which ultimately means you can get more done.

Additionally, organisations need to take ownership of their OSS by tracking and managing its use. There are organisations outside of the automotive industry that have hundreds of developers using OSS, and with the help of an OSS management solution, one administrator is responsible for tracking, approving, and regulating all of the OSS use. You need to know what’s in your code, all of it, but there are tools that can make this easy. It’s possible for organisations to put parameters and regulations around OSS so that only the secure and trusted OSS packages can find their way into code. The automotive industry can easily enable their developers to be more resourceful and efficient, while still only producing safe and reliable code.

The automotive industry is in a unique position to blaze a trail for other embedded industries to follow – the telecom industry is also struggling to embrace OSS

Now, software developers are like artists, assembling parts from various sources and piecing code together to make a functional end product. The parts that become the product can come from development, from OSS, or from commercially-available code. All of it has to be secure, whether it was written in-house or not.

The automotive industry is in a unique position to blaze a trail for other embedded industries to follow. The telecom industry, for example, is also struggling to embrace OSS. And although the two industries have a lot of parallels, the automotive industry requires significantly more rigour and standards to protect the safety and security of its consumers.

Automotive can pave the way for other industries by openly using and tracking OSS the right way. By stepping into the limelight and recognising that the knowledge gap can be drastically reduced by enabling developers with access to OSS, the connected car can truly become the envy of all industries, without the current stigma around the code flaws that are currently making some people hesitant.

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