Mercedes uses open source in all its vehicles. Its peculiar way of distributing it: a CD

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In 1985 Richard Stallman created the Free Software Foundation, an organization with the collaborative goal of promoting the use of free software. Later, in 1989, Stallman published the first version of the GPL license, which was intended to bring together various licenses then in use into one. After more than 30 years, we had no idea how this would affect Mercedes cars.


One of the essential requirements of any GPL license is that the code be public for users, with the aim that any person has in their hands the modification of said code. Also ensure that such source code is distributed. An obligation that Mercedes fulfills in its own way: with a mini-CD.

As pointed out Andreas Ehnco-founder of Wrapp, ex-CTO of Spotify, on his Twitter account, Mercedes is distributing a mini-CD with its vehicles to comply with GPL regulations when using Open Source in the software of their vehicles. A publication that has made many wonder about this way of acting.

A curious distribution system

This motivation to distribute the code opening of their vehicles on a support that has fallen into disuse has raised the curiosity of some users who debate the true motivation What is behind this decision by Mercedes? Even more so considering that the company has an account in githuba very famous online space for developers.

In the case of having a Mercedes, drivers can also consult all the details of the open source used in a dedicated web page that the company has open, but it is necessary to enter with an identification number for each vehicle.

Open Source is no longer so "Open": copyleft licenses give ground to those that come a little closer to the proprietary model

Among the possible theories to act in this way, some users consider that distributing a CD they can meet the minimum requirements in terms of distribution of the free software used. Other commentators point out that it would be easier for Mercedes to work with the physical format than not to maintain an online repository with all the updated information. Thus, each driver would have exclusive information about his car.

The truth is that in recent years, vehicle software has gained so much importance that it is already considered one of the most important pillars of the automotive industry for the coming years. For example, Mercedes itself has made famous its MBUX artificial intelligence system for controlling the car’s entertainment functions, and the steering rear axle is only a service available if you pay for it and update the car via OTA.

In fact, Vlado Koljibabic, director of CASE IT at Daimler, confirmed in an interview a Fossasia that its engineers rely on free software on numerous occasions, especially in those recurring tasksas it allows them to work faster and not start from scratch on all their implementations.

“Any Mercedes-Benz comes with a CD full of FOSS licences. Each license belongs to a piece of open source software that is implemented in our cars. Even our Mercedes me application contains seven operating system licenses. We use it because our developers know the advantages of OSS,” Koljibabic said in the quoted interview.

Photo | Andreas Ehn

In 1985 Richard Stallman created the Free Software Foundation, an organization with the collaborative goal of promoting the use of…

In 1985 Richard Stallman created the Free Software Foundation, an organization with the collaborative goal of promoting the use of…

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