August 13, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Body of a car, brains of a PC

Car buyers usually compare things like horsepower, mileage and warranties. But increasingly, the most important parts of a new car are also the least visible: software.

The self-parking Lexus LS 460 has already shown that sensors, cameras and software can get a car to parallel-park itself. Automakers are now gearing up to include more automated driving features for even the most budget models. And further down the road, the computerized car will become part of an even larger network of highway communication.

As car systems get more complex, automakers are looking to the tech industry for help in translating their designs into working software and hardware, according to both carmakers and analysts.

That's why technology specialists like IBM--with decades of software experience--are investing in the automotive industry and the companies that serve it. The potential payoff could be grabbing the driver's seat in a market worth billions of dollars.

News.com Poll

Gadgets take the wheel
What high-tech feature are you most excited about having in your next car?

Automated parallel parking
Internet access
Collision warning/automatic braking
DUI detection/prevention
GPS navigation
Lane drift warning
Real-time traffic info
Syncing for mobile/music device



View results

"All the features you see--adaptive cruise control, autopark, lane departure warning--those are all driven by software," said Patrick Milligan, senior manager for in-vehicle software development at Ford Motor.

"Complex-software development is now increasingly critical to (automotive companies') success in innovation and competitive advantage," according to a June report by research firm Illuminata on IBM's plan to acquire Telelogic.

Automakers spent 35 percent of their IT budget on software and 12 percent on third-party services in 2006, according to an October 2006 AMR Research survey of senior automotive IT managers from 52 automotive companies with a presence in the United States.

Today's average vehicle contains an estimated 1,450 euros ($1,997) worth of software code, about 9 percent of the showroom price. That percentage is expected to increase to 15 percent in the coming years, according to a 2006 report from Strategy Analytics.

For those reasons and more, IBM sees automotive computing as its next frontier, said David Petrucci, automotive solutions leader of IBM Software Group.

"We are trying to change our relationship with the automotive industry and working to become a more direct participant...both with car companies and components manufacturers," Petrucci said.

And IBM, which in the past may have been slow to enter new markets, isn't wasting any time when it comes to the auto business. In 2003, Big Blue launched data retrieval software based on XML that can be used by cars to communicate with the road and other cars around them. In 2005, it signed a $125 million deal with the United Arab Emirates to develop a vehicle telematics infrustructure that uses that technology. Last year, the company signed a partnership with Magna Electronic to design software for the company's smart-car parts.

The company's biggest move came in June, when it announced a $745 million deal to acquire automotive technology powerhouse Telelogic, a Sweden-based company that makes software development and management tools.

One of the hottest areas in automotive technology is the development of a standard "car operating system." Just as computer operating systems, such as Microsoft's Windows Vista, allow multiple applications to communicate with one another, an automotive operating system enables different driving systems--from fuel injection to brakes to power steering to power windows--to work together.

A standard operating system that pervades multiple car brands would make it easier for developers, component manufacturers and automakers to incorporate more-sophisticated driving systems, like self-parking, into multiple car models.

CONTINUED: Standard settings of future cars…
Page 1 | 2 | 3

See more CNET content tagged:
automotive company, automobile company, Ford, IBM Corp., car

13 comments

Join the conversation!
Add your comment
not quite there yet
the car companies are taking baby steps in the right direction
maybe one day there will be a car like KITT
(KNIGHT INDUSTRIES TWO THOUSAND) on the market
Posted by KTMCDO (17 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IBM Big Blue in your car...
Yet C|NET graphics show MS Vista huge MAC OSX "Widgets"...errr...MS " Gadgets" graphics in their lead in...?

90% of article was about IBM with one sentence about Microsoft, yet, Vista gets a free plug from C|NET.

We know who butters your bread C|NET.

MS Vista Tech in your car?
Big Blue screen of death right before you crash!
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Literal Blue Screens of Death?
Wow... This'll certainly give new meanings to "Blue Screen of Death" and your computer "crashing".
Posted by Jim Hubbard (326 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Blue Scree of Death
Ditto: and how about "Fatal Error"?
Posted by spothannah (145 comments )
Link Flag
The IT budget is not associated with the Development budget
This article begins describing the importance of software as it is delivered in the product then, in a detour of logic, it includes a paragraph about the IT budget and 3rd party software. The IT budget is spent on software to operate the company and is not directly associated with product development. The number that should have been included is software development as a percentage of the R&D budget and the R&D budget as a precentage of the operating budget.
Posted by Mgood (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Safety must be the biggest concern
The most pressing problem facing car makers when it comes to adding automation to vehicles is realiability and safety. A single software error might be catastrophic, not only in terms of injuries and lawsuits but in terms of the cost of massive recalls. There is a way to make software programs 100% reliable and that is to use an operating system based on a non-algorithmic, signal-based, synchronous software model. I hope, for their sake and ours, that the auto makers choose that route from the start. Otherwise they're asking for big trouble down the road. Consumers are not going to tolerate unsafe vehicles.
Posted by eightwings (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
In the end, we still have to drive...
All these handy dandy gadgets make driving much more comfortable, and features like collision warnings and such will make it safer but in the end you're still driving the car yourself. Discussions about safety issues should include the responsibility of people as drivers. Look at your computer experiences so far, how watertight has it been? That is how much you can trust software to drive a car for you. As long as I am still familiar with blue screens, and strange occurances, no way I will ever put software to the test that is supposed to drive my car for me. It's nice if it comes to the rescue when I can't help myself, but still no way I will rely on that to happen.....
Posted by Tiskie (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
i need a new computer, if you like gates or interested in Antitrust issues
It's not getting a lot of press quite yet, but Microsoft's latest court battle--a class action civil case in which the software maker is painted as a "corporate bully" that uses illegal tactics to harm competition--is one of the few remaining in the wake of the company's epic US antitrust battle. The Iowa case is expected to be one of the longest-running legal battles in Iowa history.

Filed in 2000, the Iowa case alleges that Microsoft used anticompetitive practices to drive up prices and, ultimately, harm Iowa consumers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. The plaintiffs collected more than 25 million pages of evidence over the past 6 years. "It's all about the evidence," plaintiff lawyer Roxanne Conlin said in an interview with the "Des Moines Register." "Microsoft did not come into Iowa and slap higher price tags on computers. Microsoft did anticompetitive things to people who were offering choices to consumers, and by doing that, it destroyed competition in this market." Iowa is seeking approximately $330 million in damages in the case.

The court case had ended and this was part of the evidence that the jury had to review.

If you want a journalist distribution set of Gates's unflattering 17-hour videotaped deposition from the US antitrust case please contact me. You can get real lucky ideas and a very unbiased view of the Chairman of Microsoft answering hundreds of questions.

I am poor, but I got a perfect 11 dvd set of Bill Gates answering hundreds of questions in 1998 on a camcorder for his trial.... you'll get real lucky ideas and deep insights into him. I need about a basic machine with at least 3 Ghz and 1GB ram, but if you got something nicer and can be generous that would be awesome as i need this for a project. Please contact me at rarevideoexchange@gmail.com if you can be helpful. If you can prove you are trustworthy (we can talk on the phone and/or you can email me from a business)..... I will ship to you without you advancing the machine.... but please don't rip me off!!! I need this to work! Please contact me if you have the resources to do this, and I will be happy to further answer any questions.
Posted by OpenSources2 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is that a sneak peek at the next Vette?
Just curious.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Cool Update...
Anyway,let me share some helpful tips on car buying...
Here are some tips on how you can buy and have a quality used car, so as you would not be replacing unnecessary parts along the way...Hope, this might help...
Tips & Warning
? As a final precaution, take the car to a mechanic, who should charge a reasonable fee to check over a used car. The seller should agree to this, but may require that you leave a deposit. If the seller won't let you take the car, offer to meet him or her at a mutually convenient garage.
? If you give the seller a deposit in order to take the car to have it checked, make sure to write out an agreement stating that the deposit will be returned immediately if you decide not to buy the car.
If the vehicle's mileage appears unusually low, have a mechanic determine whether someone has tampered with the odometer. If so, the seller must refund any money you have paid and may be liable for punitive damages under federal and state odometer laws?
This is how I acquire my car; I inspected all its auto parts from exterior and interior aspect down to its <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.aftermarketperformanceparts.com/neuspeed-springs.html" target="_newWindow">neuspeed springs</a> and other accessories. By doing so, you could be sure of the quality of vehicle you are getting?=)
Posted by angelfast (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IBM driver assistant
its like they expect everyone to have a speed zone and 40k time zone adjusting cruise control programmed to every onboard navigation device....I want one.. if i can also switch it to stanby.
Posted by se.rev (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
microsoft
the earth world eats more chips
Posted by se.rev (10 comments )
Reply Link Flag
&#38;#60;a href=&#38;#34;http://news.cnet.com/2100-11389_3-6201752.html&#38;#34;&#38;#62;Car Brains&#38;#60;/a&#38;#62; Thanks a lot!
Posted by Alonsx (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

Join the conversation

Add your comment

The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our Terms of Use.

What's Hot

Discussions

Shared

RSS Feeds

Add headlines from CNET News to your homepage or feedreader.