Keith Bergelt
Open Invention Network
The Open Invention Network has welcomed automobile manufacturer Daimler into the Linux patent protection partnership. CEO Keith Bergelt explains

How will Daimler joining the Open Invention Network contribute towards patent non-aggression between car manufacturers and third parties?

Historically, the automotive industry has designed and manufactured their platforms, from the ground up, in partnership with their tier-one suppliers. This has meant that as new innovations have occurred, there has been a great deal of backward engineering at very basic levels of the automobile, which has resulted in slower innovation and development times.

Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), stewarded by the Linux Foundation, with participation from numerous automotive brands, will become the foundation for automobiles for years to come. While it will begin by providing a basic platform for automotive entertainment and connectivity, it will eventually expand to provide management of advanced automotive systems. Participating automotive manufacturers will benefit from using this remarkable open source platform because they will be able to focus the vast majority of their innovation and customisation efforts on the systems that interact and delight consumers.

In order for this to work, automotive manufacturers will need to share the base, platform technology—and avoid the patent wars that have recently consumed the computing and mobile industries. Daimler joining the Open Invention Network (OIN) is very significant because it has a storied past of innovation and patenting their advancements.

By joining OIN, Daimler is recognising the shared values and benefits provided by open source and Linux, and pledging to a royalty-free cross licence for software lower in the technology stack. By joining Toyota, Ford and Hyundai-KIA as part of OIN, with more automakers and suppliers expected to join, the disruption caused by patent lawsuits should be impaired.

Will having this kind of historically renowned company promote further inclusion in OIN?

Daimler invented the automobile. It is the largest premium car company and the largest international truck and bus manufacturer. Numerous automobile manufacturers and their tier-one suppliers closely observe what actions Daimler takes from an engineering and industry perspective.

As the largest patent non-aggression organisation in history, OIN is very pleased with Daimler joining. We believe that Daimler’s participation will increase the comfort level for other automotive companies to come forward and participate in OIN.

Do you think we’ll see other car manufacturers follow suit and head towards open source software? Specifically, those innovating in the intelligent/self-driving car space?

Yes, we do. As AGL matures to become the platform for the majority of automobiles, designing intelligent automobile capabilities and features should become much easier because there will be a base platform that all of the different systems and components can use to communicate amongst each other. In fact, by leveraging AGL and participating in OIN, we expect the development of better, intelligent/self-driving cars to reach the market faster than many estimates.

What impact are outsiders like Apple and Google having on car manufacturing? Are they attracting the kind of attention for which the Open Invention Network was formed, and perhaps Daimler, as a company not traditionally associated with Linux, joined?

Google has been a participant in OIN since 2006, and has been a board member since late-2013. Their participation in OIN, and extensive use of Linux and other open source software, has been a key factor in the rapid adoption and use of Linux. Additionally, they have been trailblazers in the intelligent automobile segment. As such, Google’s self-driving module may well be adopted by select automakers and run on the AGL operating system in the near to medium term.

As non-traditional automobile companies and suppliers begin to focus on the intelligent automotive industry, there has been speculation that the behaviour of some bad actors, in terms of patent aggression and usury licensing fees, may follow them into this industry. We see the automobile manufacturers looking to mitigate these issues. One of the ways they are doing so is by joining OIN.

As classically perceived computing and mobile companies begin to enter the intelligent automotive market, and begin engaging with automotive manufacturers, we would welcome their participation in OIN. This would help demonstrate a commitment to innovation and positive behaviour. Additionally, it would provide them access to a valuable portfolio of IP.

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