You've heard the old joke about Bill Gates criticizing General Motors, noting that if the company had kept up with technology, then we would be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon, or some such. And GM responds that if it built cars like Microsoft, then "for no reason at all, your car would crash twice a day."
Though the exchange never happened, it hints at the complex problem facing the auto industry today.
Cars have transformed from the buggies of Henry Ford's Model T into connected devices, streaming navigation, entertainment and other features through infotainment systems that vie to bring the capabilities of a smartphone, and more, to the dashboard.
The 2017 Autotrader Car Tech Impact Study is reported to have found that 53 percent of consumers expect their vehicles to offer the same level of technology as their phones, keeping them connected on the move.
However, manufacturers on their own are unable to produce enough software at scale and pace to keep up with demand.
A report from Visual Capitalist in 2017 showed that car software contains upward of 100 million lines of code. Only Google, with all of its services, was said to have more code in its products.
Automakers know how to make cars that get commuters from A to B. But they have realized that they are not application developers. To help produce the mountain of code that will be required to produce apps that are a joy to use — and not like those GPS interfaces that are reminiscent of Windows 95 — a number of automakers, suppliers and technology firms have come together to share code with one another.
This is the promise of the open-source software movement, which turned 20 years old this year. The idea behind open source is to allow for developers to make use of the code written by others to build better software without the need to reinvent the wheel themselves every time or purchase commercial products.