AWS for Industries

Learning From the IBM PC: How an open hardware platform for automotive applications can help transform the industry

Drawing a parallel to the story of the IBM PC, this blog post shows how the introduction of an open hardware platform for automotive applications might create a similar environment driving innovation, disruption, and transformation for the automotive industry. This blog post also discusses the potential  advantages for the first automotive company to release such a platform.

How IBM introduced the first PC

The release of the IBM PC in 1981 was a significant milestone in the history of personal computing. It was the first personal computer to be manufactured and sold by a major company, and it set the standard for the computer industry that would help shape the modern world.

The story of the release of the IBM PC began in the late 1970s when a team of engineers at IBM’s Boca Raton facility in Florida started working on a project to develop a personal computer. The team was led by Don Estridge. Estridge had a clear goal in mind, to create a machine that was affordable, easy to use, and had enough processing power to run business applications.

The release of the IBM PC on August 12, 1981, had a profound impact on the computer industry and on society as a whole. It paved the way for the democratization of computing, making powerful technology accessible to a wider audience. It also helped establish the PC as the primary computing platform, which would shape the modern world in countless ways.

One of the key factors that contributed to the success of the IBM PC was the open architecture of the machine. IBM made the technical specifications of the computer available to other manufacturers, which allowed third-party companies to create compatible hardware and software with the IBM PC. This led to a thriving ecosystem of products and services that made the IBM PC the primary platform in the personal computer market for many years.

IBM was able to maintain its position as a major player in the computer industry by continuing to innovate and develop new products and technologies. This allowed IBM to continue to profit from the growing PC market, even as other companies began to overtake IBM with respect to the hardware manufacturing side of the industry.

Can the story of the IBM PC repeat itself for automotive hardware?

Today, an open hardware platform for automotive applications is still missing. However, the emergence of such a platform could mark a key milestone for the automotive industry. Just as the IBM PC transformed the personal computer industry in the 1980s, an open hardware platform for automotive applications could lead to a surge of new ideas and innovation.

The IBM PC was designed with interoperability in mind, meaning that software and hardware components from different manufacturers could work together seamlessly. Similarly, the developers of software-defined cars should aim for an open hardware platform for automotive applications that will allow different components and systems to work together seamlessly.

It is likely the first automaker to create a specification of an open hardware platform for automotive applications could have the following four advantages:

Increased agility
Virtualized models of an open hardware platform can be created and shared openly. By using such a virtualized model, orders or magnitude more people and organizations are enabled to participate creating automotive applications. AWS helps enable customers to quickly spin up resources as they need them, and deploy hundreds or even thousands of compute instances in minutes. With such capabilities, automakers can experiment and innovate more quickly and frequently. One example is the Stellantis Virtual Engineering Workbench.

Strategic advantage
The first automaker to develop an open hardware platform might also gain a competitive edge through faster innovation, improved brand reputation, and industry leadership. In this future, hardware will be a commodity and software will be the differentiating factor. We believe that AWS is the right partner for automakers on this journey who are innovating on behalf of thier customers, because AWS provides the most comprehensive set of services, with the largest and most vibrant community of customers and partners, and the most proven operational and security expertise.

An open hardware platform for automotive applications can establish itself as a de-facto standard providing a technical foundation to build and innovate upon. Having the specification of the open hardware platform for automotive applications available on the Internet could provide automakers with multiple advantages. For example, automakers could use the specification to communicate the technical foundations of a new electronic control unit (ECU) development project to its partners. Software vendors can create applications for the platform independently opening up a new opportunity for these companies. There are two services offered by AWS to support this kind of collaboration.

With  AWS Clean Rooms customers and their partners can more easily and securely analyze their collective datasets—without sharing or copying one another’s underlying data.

Within an organization different business units sharing a common goal but not a common data set can use Amazon DataZone. With Amazon DataZone customers can share, search, and discover data at scale across business units of an organization. In addition, they can collaborate on data projects through a unified data analytics portal.

Environmental parity
ARM-based SoCs (system on a chip) are the de-facto standard for a wide range of electronic devices. These devices include smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and other embedded systems, such as automotive systems. As a result, hardware vendors are increasingly incorporating ARM-based SoCs into their products, particularly for vehicle central compute units. With Arm-based AWS Graviton Processors running on Amazon EC2,  developers can compile and run the same automotive application binary on the AWS cloud as well as in the car.

From that perspective, the Scalable Open Architecture for Embedded Edge (SOAFEE) intends to deliver a cloud-native architecture designed for mixed-criticality automotive applications with corresponding reference implementations to enable commercial and non-commercial offerings. The governing body members of SOAFEE include Arm, Bosch, Cariad, Contintenal, RedHat, Suse, Woven Planet, and AWS.

How AWS can help transform the industry

AWS is providing a widest range of tools and resources to run and work with virtualized automotive hardware. We are determined to support the transition of the automotive industry towards a future where software is becoming a main differentiator.

For more information, please contact us via the AWS for Automotive website.

Daniel Schleicher

Daniel Schleicher

Daniel Schleicher is a Senior Solutions Architect at AWS for Continental, focusing on software-defined cars. In this field he is interested in applying cloud computing principles for automotive applications, and advancing the software development process of automotive applications utilizing virtualized hardware. In previous roles, Daniel led the migration of an enterprise integration platform to AWS at Volkswagen and, as a product manager, contributed to the creation of a central service for the Mercedes Intelligent Cloud.

Aleksandar Tolev

Aleksandar Tolev

Aleksandar Tolev is a Solutions Architect Manager at Amazon Web Services with passion for manufacturing and automotive customers. Aleksandar is passionate about software development and leveraging lean architectures for complex challenges. In his free time, he loves to do sports, mental training, and cooking.