6Q4: Red Hat’s Francis Chow On Software-Defined Vehicles, Edge, and Open Source


The auto industry is moving to software-defined vehicles to meet rapidly changing customer preferences and the constant need to update old or add new advanced features. Here is a brief overview of the technical challenges and technologies that will make all of this happen.

Our “6Q4” series features six questions for the leaders, innovators, and operators in the real-time analytics arena who are using innovative technologies to transform the world as we know it.

RTInsights recently sat down with Francis Chow, VP & GM, In-Vehicle Operating System and Edge at Red Hat to talk about the growing interest in software-defined vehicles, how they represent a new type of edge, the technologies needed to support them, and the need for an open-source approach to them.

Question 1: Why is there such great interest in software-defined vehicles?

Chow: SDVs are compelling for a multitude of reasons, but most importantly, they’re redefining what vehicles can do. I’ve stated this before, but our lives are inextricably linked with technology. From cell phones to smart appliances to telehealth, the list is endless. But people want automotive technology to catch up to the other technological innovations in their lives. They want personalization options, fixes for software bugs without having to drop their vehicle at the dealer, and the ability to upgrade to new features or services if they so desire. Automakers see SDVs as a way to keep pace with these rising expectations. They’re hoping to speed up development and continuously deliver new and exciting features, including new revenue-generating services, to their customers.

Question 2: What are some of the major challenges faced by those developing such vehicles?

Chow:  Vehicles are complex, and safety is critical. Before the onset of SDVs, many traditional systems and methodologies came with high development costs, slow time-to-market, and difficulty in addressing dynamic customer demands while meeting critical safety standards. A consistent theme we hear is OEMs are dealing with up to hundreds of bespoke tools and runtime software components, creating significant integration headaches and lots of vendor lock-in. In addition, it can be difficult to onboard new software talent familiar with so many proprietary environments, necessitating long ramp-up times and expensive training. With SDVs and an open-source model, embracing modern open toolchains and Linux, with a universal knowledge base already instilled in the global developer base, they’ll be able to focus on premium features and connected services that will set them apart in the market while opening up new business models. 

Question 3: Why is it important that any solution/strategy embrace an open-source philosophy?

Chow: It’s proven that open source accelerates transformation and value for our ecosystem. Open source isn’t just about opening up the code; it’s about free-flowing collaboration without boundaries. It’s about leveraging the rapid pace of innovation and hardening continuously occurring from the broad developer base, with rigorous oversight by expert maintainers. We’re using open source for the safety critical systems at the heart of SDVs, and we are leveraging the people, the process, and the 25+ years of experience and expertise in delivering open-source platforms that enable our customers to deploy mission-critical applications across multiple industries. With a Linux-based in-vehicle platform that supports safety and non-safety-related applications, automakers can deliver safer, intelligent vehicles with cutting-edge onboard and offboard solutions that adapt to evolving needs and technologies.

Question 4: What technologies help those developing software-defined vehicles?

Chow: There are a lot, but I can speak to a few of them we’re focused on here at Red Hat. We view automotive technologies as edge technologies. The growth of SDVs means that today, each of these vehicles is its own edge server or device benefiting from new capabilities for vehicle functionality and connectivity. At the edge, Red Hat has a few key technologies and solutions that help propel SDVs forward, including Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating System, a functional-safety certified Linux operating system; Red Hat OpenShift, the industry’s leading hybrid cloud application platform powered by Kubernetes, that helps develop and deploy applications as containers via OTA updates to the car. This enables software teams to track, manage, and resolve problems in real-time while also improving code quality; Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform and Red Hat Quay for greater mission-critical automation and container image security capabilities in SDV development workflows, enhancing and modernizing CI/CD pipelines for greater efficiency. Ansible Automation Platform delivers consistency and agility by minimizing manual processes and accelerating the overall development and deployment cycles while reducing error. Finally, Red Hat Developer Hub can be used as the developer framework to help standardize toolchains and workflows to greatly improve developer productivity.

There are so many more, but these are just a few of our core solutions that help develop SDVs. We’re also working with partners like ETAS, Renesas, Qualcomm, and more to deliver pre-tested and pre-integrated solutions to automakers with these Red Hat open-source technologies to fast-track SDVs to market. 

Question 5: Why is Red Hat partnering with Deloitte on this front?

Chow: We’re collaborating with Deloitte because we want to be able to provide automakers with pre-tested and pre-integrated solutions from vehicles to the cloud, end-to-end. Red Hat’s open source technologies and platform expertise, combined with Deloitte’s deep industry experience, technology, and engineering capabilities, made for a rock-solid foundation that can help revolutionize the automotive industry and bring about greater innovation, new efficiencies, reduced risk, and more.

Question 6: What are the expected benefits of the expanded collaboration?

Chow: Benefits include:

  • A streamlined, software-defined vehicle lifecycle, enhancing defect management, bug fixes, and updates.
  • A pre-integrated, multi-vendor solution that manages software complexity and quality risks for automakers and suppliers.
  • The possibility of additional time and money – not only for automakers but also for the end user as they’re able to better avoid unnecessary trips to the dealer for software updates.
  • Faster time-to-market with scalability and a future-ready infrastructure.
  • Improved risk management and regulatory compliance as the automotive industry moves towards a software-centric approach.
  • Accelerated development cycles that compress test phases and intensify the pressure for reliable integration.

Francis Chow

About Francis Chow

Francis Chow is currently VP & GM, In-Vehicle Operating System and Edge at Red Hat. Previously, he spent five years at VMware and was VP, Operations, Business Development and Strategy of the Telco and Edge Cloud Business Unit. Prior to VMware, Chow spent about 20 years in the semiconductor industry in leadership roles spanning Engineering, Corporate Development, Marketing, and Sales, and was a VP/GM for a $1B P&L before venturing into the software world. Chow holds an MBA and an MSEE from the University of California at Berkeley and a BSEE from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He has seven US patents.

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