In May 1993, several German automotive manufacturers — BMW, Bosch, Daimler-Chrysler, Opel, Siemens, VW — agreed to collaborate on the specification for a common, real-time distributed operating system tailored for automotive applications. The project was coordinated by the University of Karlsruhe in Germany and was to be called “Offene Systeme und deren Schnittstellen fur die Elektronik im Kraftfahrzeug” or OSEK for short. Roughly translated this means “Open systems together with interfaces for automotive electronics.”
Meanwhile in France, PSA and Renault were developing a similar system called VDX, or Vehicle Distributed eXecutive. The two projects merged in 1994, and a year later OSEX/VDX was presented to the world.
OSEK/VDX sets out to address vehicle manufacturers’ requirements on both the technical and commercial levels. By providing an appropriate feature-set, it can speed the development of the many Electronic Control Units (ECUs) found in a modern vehicle. Code and expertise can be re-used in different projects, and the external economies of scale could be realized by an industry using a common interface standard. The idea is attractive, and every major car manufacturer in the world is evaluating OSEK/VDX for the next generation of products.
Unfortunately OSEK/VDX has some way to go if it is to achieve its original aims. The committees defining the standards can’t ignore the wishes of the project’s sponsors, but producing a specification that accommodates every requirement inevitably leads to implementation-specific features, inconsistencies, and vagueness.
Environments like this ferment de facto standards as system users demand features they need from system suppliers, whatever the published specification says. The challenge for OSEK/VDX is now to formalize the de facto standard, and this will take time. Until this project is complete, OSEK/VDX is an exciting melting pot of ideas for the world’s vehicle electronics community.