Open-source software steers automotive acquisitions

February 01, 2014

Open-source software steers automotive acquisitions

Andrew Patterson of Mentor Graphics comments on the acquisition of MontaVista's automotive software division and how it will affect the company's stra...

Mentor Graphics recently acquired MontaVista's automotive division to boost its automotive and infotainment offerings. Embedded Computing Design spoke with Andrew Patterson, Business Development Director of Mentor Graphics' Embedded Software Division about the acquisition and Mentor's role in the automotive space.


Q: The acquisition of the MontaVista automotive division last year placed Mentor Graphics squarely into the automotive space. What prompted this move and how did the Automotive Technology Platform factor into the deal?

The MontaVista Automotive Division had already established a business around transforming open source Linux into a production-ready operating system for in-vehicle use. The MontaVista Automotive Technology Platform (ATP) was a GENIVI-compliant Linux distribution that had been ported onto popular SoC platforms such as the Freescale i.MX6 and Renesas R-Car H1 and taken all the way through production. With three OEMs already in production with the MontaVista ATP they have become the de facto market leader in the new trend of using open source operating systems for automotive. Mentor already had its own Mentor Embedded Linux offering and this too was gradually gaining acceptance in the automotive marketplace. By merging the MontaVista Automotive Division into the Mentor Graphics Embedded Software organization, it was possible to bring the best parts of both teams and Linux distributions together. The combined effort, now called the Mentor Embedded Automotive Technology Platform (ATP), is based on Yocto 1.5, maintains GENIVI compliance, and has a full supporting design environment and silicon foundry ecosystem behind it.

Q: What are the main challenges facing IVI/automotive system developers today, and what puts Mentor Graphics in a prime position to offer more complete system solutions?

There are several challenges facing IVI designers today, which in many ways are the same challenges the automotive industry faces as a whole. These include reducing cost and increasing the rate of innovation while maintaining and improving quality. Also, carmakers are coming to terms with the strong influence of consumer electronics, and the requirement to innovate at a rate more usually associated with smart devices like tablets and smartphones. Additional challenges include:

  • Switching to open source software instead of using commercially available licensed products. This can help to reduce costs, and even share components between OEMs where they are non-differentiating.
  • Integrating 3rd-party stack applications, such as multimedia players, navigation, smartphone integration, multi-screen displays, in-vehicle cameras, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), and silicon integration.
  • Resolving licensing and copy-left requirements. When using open source software, the terms of the license have to be preserved for downstream users. The end-user has the right to further modify and redistribute the source code, so OEMs and Tier 1s are required to consider this obligation when making use of open source components.

Mentor’s focus has been to provide a complete platform that can be further adapted to suit the needs of specific OEMs and Tier 1s. Mentor helps to solve the more difficult integration problems such as Board Support Package (BSP) development, optimization of graphics layers and inclusion of Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), providing innovative software architectures including multiple domains which allows for ECU component count reduction, and the inclusion of Android and AUTOSAR subsystems.

Q: What are Mentor Graphics' major focus areas going forward?

The further expansion deeper into automotive infotainment, instrument clusters, and telematics is a natural progression for Mentor. In fact, the combined MontaVista and Mentor Embedded organizations already have around ten new Tier 1s and OEMs in preparation for production.

Mentor Graphics has been carefully aligning its technologies into key vertical markets, where electronics and software innovation are prime enablers. Examples include Automotive, Home Automation/Smart Energy, Medical, and Telecommunications. As these markets grow, new revenue streams become available and Mentor has chosen to differentiate itself by focusing on certain areas of these new markets. Examples include “enabling connectivity” where Mentor has adapted its Nucleus RTOS and Linux platforms to fully make use of connectivity technologies such as Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth.

Mentor Graphics


Brandon Lewis (Assistant Managing Editor)
Open Source