As any fledgling tuner knows, a car's ECU's are the little things that mean a lot, and the modern car has dozens of them. For Toyota, which is working with suppliers to create an in-house operating system that will rationalize the number of control units and the amount of code controlling them, fewer ECUs will mean massive cost savings, faster development, and increased efficiency.
Currently, new software is written from scratch for each ECU in each new model. By working with its suppliers early in the development phase, Toyota wants to integrate components into modular systems, making for safer, less complex, and less expensive (for Toyota, at least) vehicles. As part of Toyota's two-year-old Value Initiative program -- only the latest step in Toyota's ruthless drive to be a leaner car company and stay in front of its competitors -- in-house software development will aid in CEO Katsuake Watanabe's aim to cut nearly $9 billion in costs.
Software teams are in place now, but a working version isn't expected until 2015. With fewer ECU's and one OS to rule them all, the word "crash" could take on new meaning. We can only hope that Toyota will take its OS-writing lessons from Apple, and not Microsoft.