Automotive Grade Linux Moves to UCB 3.0


The Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project has released version 3.0 of its open source Unified Code Base (UCB) for automotive infotainment development. Unlike AGL’s UCB 2.0, which was released in July, UCB 3.0 is already being used to develop in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) products, some of which will ship in cars this year.

The AGL also announced Daimler AG as its 10th carmaker member of the group, and the first German manufacturer. Daimler, which “will actively contribute to developing the Unified Code Base,” is known for divisions including Mercedes-Benz Cars, Daimler Trucks, Mercedes-Benz Vans, and Daimler Buses.

The addition of Daimler AG is significant considering the automotive manufacturer’s longtime partnership with Microsoft and its Windows Embedded Automotive platform. The AGL membership does not necessarily mean it’s dropping Windows, however. In September, Microsoft and Daimler announced an effort called “In Car Office” to bring Office 365 to the car environment.

The AGL is not saying which companies will ship products first, but notes that UCB 3.0 “has several strong supporters and contributors including Toyota, Mazda, Aisin AW, Continental, Denso, Harman, Panasonic, Qualcomm Technologies, Renesas and many others.” More than 40 new companies have joined AGL in the past year, bringing the member total to more than 80. In addition to Toyota and Mazda, AGL automotive manufacturer members include Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Subaru, and as of last month, Suzuki.

UCB is currently focused on in-vehicle infotainment, where the goal is to provide 70-80 percent “of the starting point for a production project,” according to the AGL. “This enables automakers and suppliers to focus their resources on customizing the other 20-30 percent to meet their unique product needs.”

“Sharing a single software platform across the industry decreases development time which enables automakers and suppliers to bring new products to market faster so they can stay ahead of new advances in mobile technology,” stated Dan Cauchy, Executive Director of Automotive Grade Linux.

Future versions will expand to more comprehensive digital cockpit and assisted driving technology. Several Linux-friendly, automotive focused system-on-chips that span all these applications have been announced in recent months, including the Intel Atom A3900, Renesas Electronics R-Car H3, and NXP i.MX8 Quad (see farther below).

The previous UCB 2.0 added a new rear seat display, video playback, and audio routing support, as well as a comprehensive application framework. UCB 3.0 refines these features while adding instrument cluster integration, rear-camera support, and an improved SDK, among other enhancements.

The AGL UCB 3.0 spans technologies for navigation, communications, safety, security, and connectivity, with features including:

  • New home screen and window manager 

  • Improved application framework and application launcher

  • New SDK for rapid application development

  • Reference applications including media player, tuner, navigation, Bluetooth, WiFi, HVAC control, audio mixer and vehicle controls

  • Integration with simultaneous display on instrument cluster

  • Smart Device Link for mobile phone integration

  • Rear view camera and rear seat entertainment on MOST ring

  • Wide range of hardware board support including Renesas, Qualcomm Technologies, Intel, Texas Instrument, NXP and Raspberry Pi

Testimonials were supplied by Toyota, Renesas, Denso, Panasonic, and Qualcomm. “We support the AGL UCB 3.0 and plan to integrate it into our vehicles in the future,” stated Ken-ichi Murata, Group Manager, Connected Strategy & Planning, Connected Company of Toyota Motor Corp. “By adopting open source software, we can focus more on developing new features and contiguously creating better user experiences for our customers.”

Toyota may well be the first car company to ship with AGL UCB inside. The company has scheduled a press conference, available via livestream, for this Wednesday at 4PM. Like most major car companies, Toyota has numerous high tech projects going on, such as self-driving car technologies, so it won’t necessarily involve UCB. The presentation will “highlight the critical importance of User Experience (UX) in the development of highly automated vehicles and robots.”

The AGL is hosting an AGL Demonstration Showcase to demonstrate UCB 3.0 during the January 4-7 CES show this week in Las Vegas. The showcase will include an AGL Demo Suite held on January 5-6.

Linux-Ready Automotive SoCs Offer New Options

AGL is maturing at a time when automotive technology is increasingly driving the high-end, SoC market. In announcing its new line of Atom E3900 “Apollo Lake” embedded SoCs, Intel tipped a similar Atom A3900 automotive variant that will ship in Q1 2017. The A3900 will enable “a complete software defined cockpit solution,” says Intel. Earlier this year, Intel acquired Yogitech, which makes safety tools for autonomous car chips, and its Wind River unit bought Arynga, which offers Linux-based OTA for cars.

In the ARM world, Renesas recently released several third-generation R-Car starter kits that are optimized for both AGL and the rival GENIVI Alliance spec, which similarly focuses on open source Linux IVI development. The kits, one of which includes a newly announced R-Car H3 SoC, are designed for ADAS, infotainment, reconfigurable digital clusters, and integrated digital cockpits.

TI also plays a big role in automotive IVI with its Jacinto 6 SoCs. Nvidia, meanwhile, has pivoted the bulk of its Tegra development resources toward automotive, including its Drive PX 2 solution for self-driving cars.

Qualcomm has been slower to shift to automotive, but earlier this year, the company announced an automotive-focused Snapdragon 820a SoC, and then followed up with a wireless-studded Qualcomm Connected Car Reference Platform. Many believe that Qualcomm’s pending, $38 billion acquisition of NXP is largely intended to boost its automotive business. NXP will also help it with IoT devices, which are expected to interact with smart cars, for example via smart garages and fuel stations.  

NXP recently announced an automotive-focused i.MX8 Quad SoC with four Cortex-A53 cores, two Cortex-M4F cores, and two GPUs. Upcoming QuadPlus and QuadMax versions will add one or two -A72 cores, respectively.

Then there’s Tesla, which continues to use a custom Linux build in its automotive technology, but has yet to comply with GPL licensing. The company recently announced that “all Tesla vehicles produced in our factory — including Model 3 — will have the hardware needed for full self-driving capability.” The capability won’t be activated, however, until the company has completed “millions of miles of real-world driving” tests.

All these platforms support Linux, which is increasingly well positioned in automotive against its two main rivals:  QNX and Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive. It remains unclear to what extent Google will turn Android Auto into a full automotive spec like AGL or GENIVI. Last January at CES, Google announced an Open Automotive Alliance with Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and Nvidia, to standardize Android IVI systems.

We can expect a lot more automotive computing news at this week’s CES show, which is increasingly focused on the topic. Nine automotive manufacturers, 11 tier-one auto suppliers, and more than 300 vehicle tech-related exhibitors will be in attendance at CES, says Business Insider. Already, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Google announced that they will unveil the latest version of FCA’s Android based infotainment system, now based on Android 7.0 “Nougat.”