Could Open Source have prevented the Volkswagen scandal?

Sep 30 2015

Since last week, no one could have missed the Volkswagen scandal in the headlines of the media.

Indeed, it seems clear that the German manufacturer has embedded in its vehicles a system to detect particle emissions controls and changed the results in order to comply with the law and the standards required by the EU and the United States.

This scandal raises the debate on the lack of transparency of the proprietary software used in the automobile sector and in the Internet of Things (IoT).

Nowadays, cars are just like real computers on wheels. Software and applications can inform you about the amount of remaining fuel, detect signboards, prevent you from falling asleep while driving or they can even park your vehicle without your intervention.

Anyway these are the uses that the manufacturers talk about.

The article by Nathalie Steiwer, published on the website www.usine-digitale.fr has the merit of raising the question of "access to codes of the embedded software".

Giving a full access to the source code (100% Open Source) to anyone does not seem to be an ideal solution.

Indeed, this would theoretically allow skilled drivers to manipulate or modify the code and thus lead to risks of frauds related to the safety of the vehicle and to society.

An alternative way is to be more transparent and to clarify which embedded program is used for which purpose and to seek the agreement of the user (as is done during the software installation).

The source code should be accessible to certified and independent experts. For example in the automobile sector, it should be accessible to people passing the technical inspection.

At XWiki SAS, we support the idea of Open Source and it full transparency regarding the use of customer data.

We have always strived to use the Open Source software regardless of the sectors and areas of work and we sincerely hope that the Volkswagen case will trigger genuine awareness and lead to the widespread adoption of the Open Source, as well as to more transparency.