Open Source Software In Automotive


In this episode, I chatted with Carl-Eric Mols, the former head of open source at Sony Mobile.

Carl-Eric is currently working for Debricked which offers a new way to manage your open source dependencies. He’s published a lot of research about open source in traditional industries such as the automotive industry which forms the bulk of our conversation today. We also cover topics such as:

– How attitudes evolved towards open source within Sony Mobile

– The difference between open source in Europe and the US

– How traditional industries are getting increasingly connected using open source

– Why smart cities and the automotive industry will drive the open source movement in Europe in the coming decade

– And finally, Carl-Eric explains the contribution strategy for automotive companies today

Link to TODO Group research paper: Why open source matters to your enterprise

Go to OpenTeams ( to find your Open Source Architect to train, support, and deliver your software solution. Assemble the right open source expert team today.

Link to podcast channel:

Thanks for listening!


hey everybody welcome back to the 18th episode of open source for business brought to you by open teams my name is
henry badri and in this episode i chatted with carla moles the ex-head of open source at sony mobile
carla is currently working for de bricht which offers a new way to manage your open source dependencies
in the past he’s published a lot of research about open source in traditional industries such as the automotive industry and this
actually forms the bulk of our conversation today but we also talk about some really interesting topics such as
how attitudes evolve towards open source within sony mobile the difference between open source in
europe and in the us how traditional industries are getting increasingly connected using open source
software why smart cities and the automotive industry will drive the open source movement in europe in the coming decade
and finally carla explains the contribution strategy for automotive companies today
whether you are a user developer manager or just curious about the industry
open teams is the place to find the information news training and support you need to thrive
with open source software now that the introductions are out of the way let’s kick off this episode
[Music] carla thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today my pleasure thank
you for having me so you’re currently a business development manager at de brict
and before that you were the head of open source at sony mobile for 10 years
so can you walk us through your journey to give us an idea of how you actually got here today yeah absolutely so it all started i was
part of sony mobile at that time it was called sony ericsson so it was a joint venture between sony and ericsson
telecom company i was part of their software strategy team
of the cto office this goes back to 2007 and we knew already and that linux will
make it to the handsets in one way another and there were actually four contenders
we knew about android before was released and we were pretty sure that android will meet made a
hit in the marketplace so it ended up into my lab to prepare for
describing a strategy at how to handle open source because android was based on on linux and that
is open source um so come out with a strategy in the beginning of 2008 at that time we had
about four different mobile operating systems we had our own for gcm handsets or
feature phones as they were called we had we were part of the symbian
operating system together with nokia motorola and samsung and then we also had some windows phones
microsoft windows phones and in addition we had a fourth segment and that was the
so-called entry level the budget funds affordable phones we had a specific entry level operating system
for for the easiest gsm handsets
my prediction was then they open source will make a dance into the mobile handset with linux and i
predicted it would be about three to four years before we had to really to take into
account of open source now i was completely wrong
completely wrong it took only 14 months from that strategy report until we
closed down and terminated our own mobile operating system for the g phones and turned our focus into android
and just about uh three years later we were working exclusively with android phones
so that was quite a journey uh in that process i get an assignment to
be the open source sar you know similar to uh in the u.s you get in the drugstore or
the war on drugs sar i kind of get it seemed like an opposition so my assignment was to prepare the company
for working with open source in all aspects from both organizational aspects processes
but also to getting legal prepared and also the business aspects of open source
and so i entered the position of the head of open source in 2009
and then already then we had started the android development and our first handset was released in
2010 and that was the start of the journey
then to be honest it took a couple years before we really get revved up in open
source i mean what i come to understand open source is for almost a cultural
change and this particular heart for a traditional industrial company
who is very protected about the its ip intellectual properties so it was kind of a
a process of of relearning and the company in in the culture of
collaboration um and that took me actually i would say
until 2012 before the culture shift was good enough to to make it work more
fluently from then before the culture shift what were the perspectives of internally towards open source software
well there were curiously enough there were different kind of opinions about
open source and as i i thought first there will be a great
opposition from the top management for executive levels and
i knew that the development in general were positive to open source obviously because it it makes the
developers to be empowered and they have more fun and again go engagements
in a quite different way of of doing what they’ve been told to yeah as the old days but
the top topic sectors was not the problem the biggest issue what i found out is the middle
management and if you had to look at in the perspective that if you being a middle
manager having a team on our department with maybe 60 70 people and you have a
responsibility for a certain component in an operating system that the only sunday mobile does or sun erikson at the time
does and then suddenly overnight uh your competence is not needed anymore
now you have you’ve been handled a piece of software that is open source that someone else
has developed and you’re supposed to work with that instead of your legacy code
so that was actually what i found surprisingly the biggest culture resistance i would call it
came from middle management okay so they were developing this software and they’re almost like their babies they
didn’t want to let go even though it was entirely in the interest of company to do so yeah absolutely so uh but
interesting enough um after a while the culture changed actually hit them too because then they
started to discover that their department their team was performing
great with their open source software and they’re starting to get the shine
splattering on them what the their developers were and while doing so in the end they’re quite
the uh i saw couple of few examples of managers that are in from the beginning was quite
um opposing but i could not really oppose its uh family they have to do with what was
decided on from an executive level uh but i i’ve saw them turning around a very
much more positive though after a couple of years when they’re stopping to see the results so um um yeah it was kind of funny
sometimes to experience that managers that being i know them being very womanly against open source
then starting to start talk about the yeah it is the greatest thing since sliced bread kind of talks and then your next step
was then to join to bricks can you talk a bit about what led to that change and what you’ve been doing there well
that is uh happening much later i was about two years ago uh i was let go from center mobile
due to the the company doesn’t perform very well in the marketplace
um so as i had since a couple of years been engaged in research in open source so i was
engaged in the european research program and from that i developed also a router book it’s called
principles for industrial open source taking very much of my experiences from
uh sun and mobile of course but also in that research project we actually had
about 30 companies that we did studies on so we had a couple of state case studies
from other companies working with open source so i took all these experiences my own and and from the research put that in the
book and i had the id because i have encountered a similar kind of companies over the
years that i will start my own business on doing open source strategy consultancy
services so the step actually to go to adlot which is a small consultancy company
which were part of the partner and actually in the research program that was part of um
so i took part in ad lot became a consultant and then uh soon after we i got an
assignment to work as a business development manager as the bricked and i’ve been working there since may
last year and so i know you’re currently based in sweden uh you’ve been working and living there and you’ve worked a lot with us
companies so i’m really curious to know when you look at open source in the us and when you look at it in europe
what are the key differences that stand out to you oh yeah now welcome to my favorite
issues talk about yeah so what i absurd of course is that
u.s development is of course ahead of the rest of the world and that is very much of of the
fostering that is made from california and the tech giants and the advancements in
and everything it technologies um but my observation being working in sony
mobile which although it was a telecom or mobile telecommunication technology company it still resembles
very much of a traditional industrial company we did had we did produce handsets
so we had tangible products that we produced so i started to realize there is a difference
between us at large compared to europe and that is in
us you have the tech giants and this is the fan companies facebook
amazon apple netflix google and microsoft but their products very much based on our software
software products yes i know that indeed some devices still do some devices but mainly there
is a software companies whereas in europe you have uh
each all the industrial companies for instance in the automotive industry
and that is maybe not so very recognized not by themselves even that they actually are heavily engaged
in the digital transformation so so what is the digital transformation
that is software and what is software today it’s open source so in fact what is
happening now today is that a lot of all these age-old industrial european companies are
starting to be moving to be more like a software company but they are still working with
some kind of industrial setting or having dusseld products and i mentioned the automotive industry
and in fact i’m studying now the automotive industry and where i started up working in europe and and doing
questionnaires and starting to probe the automotive automotive industry in how far open
source is starting to made it into the ultimate industry so there is a difference um
that is in u.s is fair dominated by software companies traditional tech
giants i call the european old industrial
titans and those titans are realizing more and more that they are becoming
softer companies foremost and i can give you a sample i happen to get an information that
today volvo which is one of the famous swedish car brands uh volvo alone has 8 000 software
developers and i think that is in part with the rest of engineering in volvo if not larger so
volvo actually have started to realize oh they’re a software company nowadays at least there’s a lot of software going
on in our in our business and they join in uh the swedish ngo for software it’s called sweatsoft
uh it’s about two years they join in so that is happening now in sweden and the rest of
europe that the big industrial starting to realize hey our business has become a
softer business so we better have to turn around and look into software in a better ways and as i said
today software is really open source you cannot do anything really modern software development without
taking account of open source and upon first glance looking at the automotive industry people might be
a bit taken back when you say that they could be the key drivers of open source in the future because
historically cars haven’t used much software but the cars today the tesla’s the volvo
like you explained they have to be connected and i know one technology we talked about
was 5g technology and they’re really going to use that to connect the cars and connect the networks
and this technology the foundation of it is open source software so can you talk a bit about a pattern
that you’ve seen within traditional industries like the automotive industry for instance and explain how they’re getting
connected and how they’re actually starting to use open source more and more today well let’s start off thinking about the
car and you will immediately think about an engine and petroleum but also things but
in fact a car is really a smartphone on wheels it’s a lot of computing power in the
cart of today and it’s worse than that because in in a
modern handset you have maybe two cpus one for the general cpu and one for
maybe for the modem and you maybe have some additional graphics
cpu as well in our normal car you have about 90 to 120 different what they call
in the colonies they call it ecu’s but it is that is computers
microcontrollers in many cases so maybe not that big capacity but nevertheless so this is already there everything
you could expect with a communications network a load of
computers working together someone saw controlling the engine others are controlling the brakes
so that is already happening has happened since long what is happening now is that the automotive industry
is going to a tremendous transformation first you have the drive of electrical vehicle cvs
then you have to bear more or less um restart with the whole platform with the
whole software platform we don’t if we do not have a petrol engine anymore you really have to
rewrite the whole software for controlling are now an electric motor that is driving the car and then it
continues all the software tools for developing software are based on open source there are some examples of
software platforms for electrical vehicles that are based on open source and open source solutions the
porsche for instance their electrical porsche airspace have released their platform as an open source
and the tesla’s done the similar things and then it continues cars of tomorrow will be very well
connected they have to for instance for self-driving cars to enhance the path the driving
the big in constant connection with the cloud would you have some navigation software that guides the cars
so you need a lot of connectivity high speed connectivity 5g and then boom
you into open source again because everything in about 5g is open source and then it continues if you look into
the machine learning algorithms that is driving the self-driving cars
that is also open source so you see you when you’re starting to scratch the surface you’re seeing a lot of open
source starting to getting into closer close to the car infotainment systems instrumentation
systems that is already now based on open source ultimate to great linux for instance
it’s a project that’s run by linux nation so i would say that it’s just has
entered into the car but everything around the car is already there you already have a lot
of open source starting to getting into there we had an interview with our last swedish truck
company with the head of open source they do have a head of open source in the truck company
and his predictions was that within five years he doesn’t think it’s going to be a huge
change within 10 years everything going to change so he himself thought that it’s going to
be slow but then it’s going to be an avalanche within five to 10 years it’s going to be a noble lunch with open
source in the automotive sector and if you thought that um the entrance
of android was disruptive for the mobile industry just wait to see what open source is
going to do to the automotive industry i know you wrote a research paper in the past titled scaling up
software i believe is that correct and in that you predicted that i t and the automotive industry
would be the fastest growing sector in open source software so can you talk a bit about that yeah
and that is exactly the point i made that if you look into the european industry the two more important ones that will
take an uptake of open source that is the automotive industry and as as i mentioned that is already happening
all update is maybe just now it’s maybe not seen as a very large but it’s going to grow and grow
exponentially but it also is another sector where i think actually europe has a lead
on and that is smart cities that is a lot of thing happening in europe and that is
the idea of small cities and how to connect buildings and a collection of buildings and data
from society and then connect everything in the city like traffic management um war
management waste managed everything you can imagine those perch is already taking part in in
europe um barcelona is well known to be quite ahead in these stockholm miss makings moves in sweden
and there’s a lot of initiatives taken in a lot of european uh countries as well so so that was our
prediction so and that is automotive and smart cities that is the two drivers in europe
that’s that’s really interesting because i know you also you’ve done a lot of research in the last few years and another
research paper i was quite interested in that you wrote with the european chapter of the to do group was that why open source
software matters to your enterprise and i know that’s where you covered a lot about the automotive industry and these
traditional old age industries for those listening i’ll actually leave a link to the research paper in the description
uh but in that paper you talked about specifically entertainment systems within cars and how
the software they’re using is grabbing gravitating towards more open source solutions so can you touch on that we gave the sample
of pole star 2 and poster 2 is the brand of volvo for the electrical vehicles
so it’s the electric vehicle of volvo it’s called a pole star and and the poster was the latest make
there the released i think it was lost fall i know a little bit about the reasoning
but they decided um to include android car or as they say comes with google and
then they have inherit of course open source because androids is based on open source
and one of the reasons for them making that move is that they’re starting to realize that it’s not only android
that is important but it’s all the the surrounding technologies that are provided by google for instance in
voice recognition and they did their own voice recognition software but they just understood there were years behind what
google already done and that shows a little bit about the power of both open source development but also um
how far you can come to when you’re starting to collaborate with others and that obviously google has taken the
lead here and voice recognition so they make the decision that there’s no chance that we’re going to
catch up what google has already done in voice recognition and that is a strong that’s making the stone case for also
moving to to android in the course and then then you start you then you start
how to handle open source because android is open source there are people that are arguing that
android is maybe not a real open source projects uh that could be debated but nevertheless
the source code are released as open source and you have to handle it nevertheless and then you’re starting to
get dragged into this universe of open source whether you like it or not
that is the way forward and so i think actually volvo is in a in in a powerful discovery
and that was one of the reasons why they joined into the swedish ngo for software intensive industry is
because the starting realized this is software our business businesses become more dependent on software it’s going to be
open source the future model of developing software is more collaborative
which is open source so you see what it is is leading that parts and pits bits off
of the coins this can be untangled and then open source enters that and another very
important part is you mentioned about the infotainment systems and the instrumentation
but it is equally important to look into what is happening with the communications and that comes from the legacy if you
want to to make you your device your product to be connected
to the cloud for a lot of reasons for instance if you if you want to have surveillance over your product of the
maintenance needs then you wanted to have some kind of sensors you could have a sensors on the ball
bearings and picking up the vibrations and then you’re starting to realize when the ball
bearing doesn’t work and longer the card needs then to be uh get an appointment to a workshop to get those
again replaced that is connected to the cloud and and assume you’re starting to talk about connectivity
then is that traditional telecom and mobile industry business who is today totally
dominated by open source i think that people doesn’t really realize how far open source has entered
now and what’s happening around this in the telecoms industry it’s going to the extent today that
today you don’t build um a telecommunications network in a country
you do have fertilized network and based all all nodes in this
virtualized network is based on standard components and standard open source
software in a past podcast that i did with patrick mcfadden who’s the the vp of developer relations at data
stacks he talked about how automotive companies actively contribute to open source
projects when a certain software component isn’t necessarily considered to be a
competitive advantage of the company the example that he gave was the gps system
and he explained how competitors are happy to collaborate uh on the gps system because at the end
of the day no one goes and buys a car or doesn’t buy a car because of that gps system whereas on
the other hand you have say the dashboard user interface which may actually impact a purchase decision
so is this something that you’ve seen in the automotive industry not an ultimate venus but it is very
familiar from my day you see in this on the mobile yeah that was the reason all the time should we
keep this or should we contributed and released it open that was one of the things that i preached within the company
when to release and when not to release so uh in basically you can divide it in
that you have something that is commodity something what you call it the qualifier uh
gsm software for instance that will be a typical something as a qualifier important piece of
software but it’s not uniquely a new property and then you have what is
the differentiators what uniquely you have as a business proposition and that of course you should release as
open source you will lose your advantage then uh so we had i
recognized that kind of thinking from constantly that that is what my work was actually very much in the
senate mobile as the head of open sources is arguing about the business
prospects of releasing something against and waiting against the needs for the company maybe to
protect some ip intellectual property and that lacks led to a paper that is what i call contribution strategy
using uh actually some sourcing methodologies on about external
assets what is the contribution strategy currently for these automotive industries what are they contributing
what aren’t they and why well i will guess they’re very i’m not sure in this point i mean they will probably
actively in linux and this is what i’m seeing and everyone will agree that linux is from an automotive
company’s viewpoint linux is a very curious but still a commodity you need to have a
working well working linux maybe adapted for some special needs in a car
it should be maybe more um suitable to safety critical systems but nevertheless
it’s linux is a commodity from the car company viewpoint so i i will expect
they are active in what they they’re seeing as commodities like linux maybe in tools i mentioned that you have
self-driving cars you’re using a lot of machine learning algorithms on software maybe they are
participating in developing machine learning algorithm software but
then that surely doesn’t contribute the data sets and that sort of things
that is where you have their differentiation and their their assets
so to speak but i’m i’m seeing the same kind of process we had in the mobile industry
that in the beginning you you tend to be very protective about your ip your
intellectual property until you’re starting to realize hey this is just a mobile operating system
and this that is not making the magic of selling things people doesn’t care about it they
just want to have a fancy phone a fancy car with a lot of features of course and
those features that is what you’re selling that is what you have your business aspects so in fact that is actually a fact of
open source that open source in reality is used for things that are considered to be a
commodity there is when you really have the benefits of open source because if it is
commodity it could be collaboratively developed with your competitors and making the
whole thing much better for the whole industry and that gives you a competitive advantage when you come working together with your
competitors for something that is seen as a commodity because then you add all your development resources
to the level that no one can match it microsoft tried it with windows phones but yeah they asked you i
gave up in 2017. so that that is something that i’m talking a lot
today is about the business impact of open source and and i can give you android as an
example google launched android in 2008 within just two years
there were some 40 plus mobile operating systems commercially available mobile
operating systems like the one i mentioned about we used
we source it in from a french company for our entry phones that market just died within two years
and the last remaining commercially available mobile operating system
which was windows phones ceased to exist in 2017. so it took google about
two years to kill the majority of the market and the entire market for commercial available
mobile operating systems in just nine years okay i think that’s definitely a trend that we’ve seen in a lot of the uh space when
it comes to open source and them coming in and disrupting and completely removing the need to have
proprietary technology but i’d never like to shift gears and just ask a final question that i think is
really quite interesting what is the difference between industrial open source and
enterprise open source not very much but if if there is something that
differs i would say that in industrial open source we take more consideration on the fact that
based on my experiences working in an industrial company there is a bit larger need for an industrial company to protect the ip
or at least i have to put the question what what ip is worth to defend and what ip
could get go sometimes it’s actually beneficial to let some of your ip go as open source
because then you kind of destroy the market for others to take the patent in that area
so sony mobile had a defensive patent portfolio strategy and what that means is that we often took patterns just to
be sure that not somebody else would take a patent in that area and then the patent office and the
member discovered that hey if we have a patent in this area and we release it
as open source then we really have a protection from borrowing anyone else to take a
patent denials and barring us for entering that in that market so if you have a defensive
patent strategy then open source works very well and so that i will say that
that is maybe that flavoring that differs industrial open source from enterprise open source that uh
with my experiences working in industrial that you have to take more considerations on
on ip the second thing i don’t do a big difference from somewhat different
from a enterprise open source they’re taking also the business aspects in account
the longer extent if you’re looking to i have my base data i have a five-stage model which i call the sony mobile
um open source maturity model stages one two three or four are equivalent to what is
described in the enterprise open source but my fifth state that is actually there
the google stage the google level the nirvana level when you dominate the
market just showing what you can do if you are you can be very disruptive in the market
and change the whole market logic and that is not really describe it in enterprise open source
so i have maybe a little bit more business aspects business model suspects in in
industrial open source well yeah thank you so much for your time today it’s been really great talking with you kyla getting to know you
and i appreciate it it’s been my pleasure thank you very much and to everyone listening thank you for listening if you’re watching this on youtube then
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so thanks very much everyone thank you carla and until next time see you