Few of us appreciate the software middleware that is part of all the cars we drive today. The integration of in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems, along with instrument clusters and telematics, is a very complex subset of priorities for today’s automotive industry.
According to a recent article that appeared on CNET, Open-source Linux a step closer to automotive use, current development practices are incompatible and fragmented:
“Automotive infotainment systems, which usually combine navigation, digital audio, hands-free phone calling and third-party apps, have been developed by automakers and equipment suppliers alike, leading to fragmentation and disparate interfaces unique to each brand of vehicle.”
Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) is a project of the Linux Foundation dedicated to creating open source software solutions for the automobile industry. It also leverages the ten billion dollar investment in the Linux kernel. The work of the AGL project enables software developers to keep pace with the demands of customers and manufacturers in this rapidly changing space, while encouraging collaboration.
Walt Miner is the community manager for Automotive Grade Linux, and he spoke at LinuxCon in Toronto recently on how Automotive Grade Linux is changing the way automotive manufacturers develop software. He worked for Motorola Automotive, Continental Automotive, and Montevista Automotive program, and saw lots of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota in action over the years.
He said, “Traditionally, these guys don’t share. It’s a dog eat dog world.” However, this mindset has changed for these same developers working with Automotive Grade Linux. “This is the first time I’ve seen Tier 1s1 and OEMs cooperating with each other.” To see these competitors working on the same software, and even sitting in the same room at times is remarkable. AGL is about collaborating to build the car of the future, and doing that through rapid innovation. Dan Cauchy, the General Manager for Automotive Grade Linux and Walt’s boss, said:
“If Linux is in the car, we want it all to be based on AGL, no matter what the function.”
According to Walt, AGL is the only organization that plans to address IVI, instrument cluster, telematics, heads-up display (HUD), instrument clusters, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Walt said, “AGL is changing the future of driving.” AGL has eight major OEMs involved in the project: Ford, Honda, Jaguar, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota. Currently 81 companies are members of AGL. Of that number, five are platinum members, and a larger number are silver and bronze members. Walt noted that Jim Zemlin recently said that “Linux is the greatest software development program in history”, and at AGL they are leveraging that momentum. Walt said, “We are changing the way automotive manufacturers are developing their software. We are changing the way consumers will interact with their vehicles and the way vehicles interact with the cloud.”
AGL is creating a standardized open operating system and application framework. It’s not under the control of any one company. It is developed collaboratively among many companies. This decreases time to market, and creates a functionality similar to a smart phone which leads to shorter development cycles. The AGL ecosystem enables a global system of suppliers and application developers.
Walt stressed that AGL and GENIVI are collaborating where appropriate, but that AGL is addressing all vehicle functions and not merely IVI. He said that GENIVI is a bring-your-own-code system, and contrasted that with the AGL approach which stresses a unified code base, which is a complete distribution. AGL represents the best of GENIVI, Tizen, and AGL integrated into one codebase. Walt said, “We are using Yocto and Poky with AGL specific layers.”
If you are a developer and you would like to get involved in the project, AGL is happy to have you on board. You can join their wiki; it is a single sign-on and coordinates with the Linux Foundation. AGL has a mailing list which currently has 579 subscribers. Membership on the list has doubled in the past year. They also maintain a channel on IRC: #automotive on freenode.net, which is usually monitored by a couple of people. And, they have weekly developer calls at 13:00 UTC.
AGL is currently looking for application and subsystem developers. Check Jira for for open issues and tasks that need to be done. Source code for the project is available on their wiki. The code development process is documented on the AGL site. In addition to the automotive industry, Walt said that they have had some inquiries from boat manufacturers, and he sees them including IVI on motorcycles in the near future.
1 Tier 1 suppliers sell parts or software directly to the auto manufacturer (OEM). Tier 2 suppliers supply parts or software to Tier 1 suppliers. For example, Toyota buys from IVI systems from Tier 1s such as Denso, Panasonic, and AisinAW.