The Open Source Car, Really

In the tradition of holding forth about open source everything — which is usually misleading and sometimes just silly — ZDNet posted an article called “The Open-Source Car.”  (What style despot is responsible for that hyphen?  My friends know me as the Cliff Clavin of grammar, and even I don’t go that far.)  The impetus of the article was Toyota joining the Free Software Foundation.  But unlike most headlines touting a new open source phenomenon, the article does mention an interesting trend, which is that automobiles today contain a great deal of software.  Where there is software, there is open source, so that places us one step closer to the Linux toaster.  As of now, open source in cars is primarily confined to entertainment consoles, where open source audiovisual and web surfing packages are handy and abundant.  When open source moves to the computers with no user interface, we get to ponder once again how to deliver notices to the user behind the wheel.  An industry that is moving away from long paper manuals may have to take a step backward to deliver them.