As automobiles are becoming part of the Internet of Things, “connected” technologies are increasingly deployed to enhance the safe operation of autonomous vehicles. These “intelligent” vehicles rely on an ecosystem of proprietary and third-party components to gather, analyze and react to data from both inside and outside the vehicle. In order to reduce costs, accelerate development and enhance the interoperability of connected technologies and applications, automakers and their suppliers are turning to pre-existing building blocks such as open source software (OSS). Though automakers see OSS as key to developing a base operating system that is flexible and allows for a continuous evolution, the technology does not come without its challenges.

First, despite OSS being available without charge over the internet, it is not “free” as it is provided via different specific license terms with varying requirements. Several OSS licenses require the licensees to make source code available to third parties. Other OSS licenses may require the automaker to license its patented technology to third parties. The varying licenses may conflict with each other which can frustrate an automaker’s adherence to the license.

Second, using OSS may not be less costly than using a proprietary solution. For example, costs are associated with conducting a comprehensive license and infringement analysis. Significant amounts may also need to be spent on designing and building necessary interfaces and testing the individual building blocks and the integrated system. Other costs may include the ongoing support and maintenance of OSS.

Third, the openness and transparency of OSS that allow for easy interoperability run contrary to traditional methods of secrecy, isolation and segmentation as means to maintaining system security. The openness and widespread use of a common technology platform for vehicle systems also means that the exploitation of a single security vulnerability will more likely reverberate through the entire ecosystem.


While OSS has been touted as a means to develop common standards and protocols, foster the ability for multi-sourced devices to communicate with each other and avoid any one device from being tied to a proprietary system or supplier, the effective use of OSS requires a careful evaluation of the total costs of deploying, maintaining and safeguarding resulting systems.

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This article was originally published on AllAboutIP – Mayer Brown’s  blog on relevant developments in the fields of intellectual property and unfair competition law. For intellectual property-themed videos, Mayer Brown has launched a dedicated YouTube channel