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Automotive Grade Linux Reaches Key Car Platform Milestones

By Jack M. Germain
Aug 3, 2017 4:07 PM PT
automotive-grade-linux

Automotive Grade Linux on Wednesday released version 4.0 of the AGL infotainment platform and announced new projects to support telematics, instrument cluster, heads-up-display and a virtualization component.

The group also announced that seven new companies have joined AGL and The Linux Foundation. The addition of Brison, Karamba Security, Lear Corporation, Luxoft, Thundersoft, SafeRide Cyber Security and Wipro increases AGL's membership to more than 100 partners.

The breadth of the seven new companies indicates the range of involvement within the automotive industry for developing a unified open source system for in-vehicle infotainment systems, said Dan Cauchy, executive director of AGL at The Linux Foundation.

A major market analysis coming out soon will show AGL as a separate line item, which shows the momentum AGL has developed within the industry, he told LinuxInsider.

The latest version of AGL's Unified Code Base includes support for SmartDeviceLink integration, Speech Recognition APIs, secure Over-the-Air Updates, and improvements to the App Framework and Software Development Kit, noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

Under AGL's Hood

Automotive Grade Linux is a collaborative open source project that brings together automakers, suppliers and technology companies to accelerate the development and adoption of a fully open software stack for the connected car. The collaboration is focused on In-Vehicle Infotainment.

AGL's Unified Code Base is an open source infotainment platform that can serve as the de facto industry standard. However, AGL is the only organization planning to address all software in the vehicle, including instrument cluster, heads-up display, telematics, advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving.

"AGL is quickly gaining momentum across the auto industry, and Toyota's AGL-based infotainment system puts the AGL platform a step closer towards becoming the de facto industry standard," said The Linux Foundation's Cauchy. "The industry is starting to understand the advantages of open source and the impact that AGL can have on product development."

That involvement from Toyota is a huge step forward, Pund-IT's King told LinuxInsider. "Along with [the backing of] other major automobile vendor members -- including Mazda, Suzuki, Honda and Mercedes -- Toyota's support is likely to significantly boost the AGL industry profile and achievements."

AGL does not integrate open source with proprietary products. Rather, it is the base platform. AGL is 70 percent to 80 percent of the starting point for a production project.

"Car makers then add their own look and feel with their own user interface, so it looks like their brand, and add the apps that they want," King pointed out.

Industry-Wide Integration

Car makers can customize AGL all they want. The platform is all AGL. It does not compete with smartphone projection technologies like Android Auto and Apple Car Play.

"For those displays to work, you must first have a full-blown system in the car that is working. The smartphone display does not replace the system in the car at all," Cauchy said.

AGL ultimately will become the platform that car makers will deploy the most, he predicted. However, it is not there yet.

"The incumbent is QNX, but they are losing market share rapidly because of the success of Linux," Cauchy said.

"A key advantage to Automotive Grade Linux is that a lot of these OEMs do not want to have a system that is controlled by one company. They want to be in control of their own destiny. With AGL they can customize it to their own brand and do whatever they want with it," he explained.

Driving Factors

The goal of the UCB infotainment platform is to provide most of the basics of a production infotainment system. Automakers and suppliers customize the rest.

Sharing a single software platform across the industry reduces fragmentation and accelerates time to market by encouraging the growth of a global ecosystem of developers that can build a product once and have it work for multiple automakers.

AGL makes two releases per year, roughly every six months. The industry can start counting on AGL having a steady cadence of releases, said Cauchy.

"We hope the various manufacturers can now take our releases and integrate them in their own products to provide the enhancements and security and bug fixes into their own releases and provide over-the-air updates to their own customers," he said.

There is much more in AGL's big picture, noted Pund-IT's King. AGL has set its sights beyond infotainment. It sees the UCB as a means to support other capabilities, including telematics, instrument cluster and heads-up-display.

"The newly announced Virtualization Expert Group is likely to play a key role in this process, since adopting a virtualization platform and features should enhance the UCB's security and other capabilities," he said.

Virtualizing Infotainment Plus

The Virtualization Expert Group, or EG-VIRT, plans to identify a hypervisor and develop an AGL virtualization architecture that will help accelerate time to market, reduce costs and increase security.

An open virtualization solution could allow for the consolidation of multiple applications such as infotainment, instrument cluster, heads-up-display and rear-seat entertainment on a single multicore CPU through resource partitioning.

That approach potentially could reduce development costs by enabling OEMs to run independent operating systems simultaneously from a single hardware board.

Virtualization also could add another layer of security by isolating safety critical functions from the rest of the operating system, which means the software would not be able to access critical controls like the vehicle CAN bus.

Virtualization also will play a key role in the AGL Cockpit Architecture work. This phase, launched in early 2017, expands AGL throughout the entire cockpit to reduce the lead time for integrating commercial applications.

Work in Progress

The value of Linux is essential to AGL's progress in developing an industry-wide in-car OS, noted Howard Green, vice president of marketing at Azul Systems.

"AGL is a great Linux distro, and we actually have added it to the support matrix for our Zulu Embedded builds of OpenJDK," he told LinuxInsider.

The platform has a lot of marquee names behind it, and these new projects, developed in close cooperation with the industry, will help accelerate adoption, Green noted.

"We can not speak to overall sector dominance," he said. "However, it is clear that AGL has lots of momentum and visibility."


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software. Email Jack.


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How do you feel about flying on a pilotless plane?
No way -- if there's a screw-up, you can't just jump out.
I'd do it -- flights are pretty much entirely automated anyway.
I'm skeptical but open minded, especially if fares would be much less.
I would try it if there were *someone* on board to take over in a pinch.
It's the wave of the future -- I'm resigned to it.
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