In-car tech has just gone open source with news of a new automotive-grade build of the Linux operating system. But what does this mean for your next car?

Linux in various forms is already widely used in cars. But to date, it's largely been used in embedded systems, the operations of which are mostly obscured from owners and drivers.

This new build of Linux is designed to underpin the sort of hands-on multimedia and infotainment functionality that's having an increasing impact on the driving experience.

The idea is to make it easier for a broader range of manufacturers to include cutting-edge features like smartphone integration, streaming media, Google Maps and other apps.

In your car, off the shelf

Essentially, car makers would take Automotive Grade Linux off the shelf, pick their preferred feature set and skin the end result to suit their branding.

For some car makers, this could be a huge boon. Currently, a gap is growing between those who have invested heavily over the years in infotainment and those who have not. Automotive Grade Linux could help close that gap much more rapidly at much more cheaply than doing all the work in-house.

The Linux foundation has released some impressive looking screen shots of the default look of the new platform. It looks miles ahead of the clunky proprietary systems offered by most car makers.

Of course, you might also wonder what the safety and reliability implications are of open-source software in cars. But that's a debate for another day.

For more technical insight into Automotive Grade Linux, check out the announcement on the Linux Foundation website.