Automotive Grade Linux Moves to UCB 4.0, Launches Virtualization Workgroup


The Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project released Unified Code Base (UCB) 4.0 (“Daring Dab”) for Linux-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems, and added seven new members. The open source group also launched a new virtualization working group that will enable new UCB profiles for telematics, instrument clusters, and head-up-displays (HUDs). In other Linux automotive news, Ubuntu has been spotted in an Uber self-driving car trial (see below).

The new AGL members bring the total membership to over 100. The newcomers are Brison, Karamba Security, Lear Corp., Luxoft, Thundersoft, SafeRide Cyber Security, and Wipro Ltd. The announcement follows an April expansion of six new members.

UCB 4.0, which follows a UCB 3.0 “Charming Chinook” version that appeared in January, arrived a little over a month after AGL revealed that the 2018 Toyota Camry will be the first car to fully adopt AGL’s Yocto Project based UCB distribution later this summer. After the debut, AGL’s UCB will roll out to most Toyota and Lexus vehicles in North America.

UCB 4.0 adds major new features such as SmartDeviceLink integration, speech recognition APIs, and secure Over-the-Air Updates (SOTA). Daring Dab also makes improvements to the App Framework and Software Development Kit (SDK).

New features in AGL UCB 4.0 include:

  • Update to Yocto 2.2

  • Application Framework improvements

  • Application Services APIs for Bluetooth, audio, tuner and CAN signaling

  • AGL API version 2 using OpenAPI specification format

  • CAN signaling, secure signaling and notifications

  • SDK improvements with new application templates  

  • SmartDeviceLink ready, ease of integration with SDL

  • Default board support tunings across Intel, ARM32 and ARM64 architectures  

  • Added board support for the Renesas R-Car 3 and Qualcomm Snapdragon 820

SmartDeviceLink (also called SDL) is a technology developed at Ford and hosted by the GENIVI Alliance that enables an automatic sync between IVI systems and mobile phones. The spec aims to be an OS-agnostic alternative to Android Auto or Apple’s CarPlay.

An open source version of Ford’s proprietary AppLink technology, SmartDeviceLink lets developers add extensions to mobile apps so they work over compliant IVI systems. With Toyota announcing support for SmartDeviceLink in early January, along with QNX, it is not surprising that AGL would support the spec as well.

UCB 4.0’s new R-Car 3 support appears to refer to the R-Car M3 SoC announced last year as an upgrade to Renesas’ earlier R-Car M2 SoC. The M3 features dual 1.5GHz ARM Cortex-A57 cores and four Cortex-A53 cores, and provides a “dual lock-step” Cortex-R7 MCU and PowerVR 6XT GX6250 GPU. The SoC offers optimizations for both AGL and the rival GENIVI Alliance spec, which seems to have lost some momentum as the more open source AGL has gained ground.

Unlike the M3, the other newly announced BSP — for the Snapdragon 820 — has not yet appeared on UCB 4.0’s BSP list. The list also includes the R-Car M2-based Porter board, the MinnowBoard Max (Intel Atom), the Raspberry Pi 3 (Broadcom BCM2387), and TI’s Vayu (Jacinto 6). It’s unclear if this is the Snapdragon 820 or Qualcomm’s almost identical, automotive focused Snapdragon 820A, which similarly offers four Cortex-A72-like “Kyro” cores, clocked at up to 2.2GHz, plus an Adreno GPU and other coprocessors.

Virtualization project expands AGL beyond IVI

The announcement of a new Virtualization Expert Group (EG-VIRT) is the first major step toward AGL’s long promised expansion from IVI into telematics, instrument clusters, and HUDs. Virtualization is required because these more safety-critical functions need to be walled off from less secure infotainment applications.

The EG-VIRT will “identify a hypervisor and develop an AGL virtualization architecture that will help accelerate time-to-market, reduce costs and increase security,” says the AGL. This would suggest the group will adapt an existing hypervisor technology rather than build its own.

The upcoming virtualization architecture will implement resource partitioning to enable consolidation of infotainment, cluster, HUD, and rear-seat entertainment applications on a single multicore SoC. In addition to protecting core technologies like the CAN bus from interference or potential malware infestations from the IVI realm, virtualization will also cut costs by enabling multiple applications and OSes to run on a single SoC, says the AGL. Virtualization will play a key role in technology being developed by the recently launched AGL Cockpit Architecture group. 

“Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) is gaining an increasing influence across the automotive industry,” stated Larry Geng, CEO of new AGL member Thundersoft. “As one of the world’s leading smart device operating system and platform technology provider, Thundersoft can provide OEMs and Tier1 suppliers with our advanced smart cockpit solutions to improve driving experience.”

Ubuntu spotted in Uber self-driving launch

AGL plans to eventually move into self-driving car technology where other Linux distributions are already at work in several prototypes. OMG! Ubuntu! spotted the Ubuntu GUI in a Mashable report on Uber’s limited expansion of its self-driving car project to the general public in Pittsburgh. Uber is rolling out 14 customized Ford Fusions equipped with radar, camera, GPS, and other equipment. The cars will offer free service to customers.

OMG! Ubuntu! may have jumped the gun a bit since the interface is running on a laptop that connects to the car computer to present and record data on road and traffic conditions, according to Mashable. However, we would not be surprised if the onboard computer runs Ubuntu as well. Alphabet’s Waymo unit, which took over Google’s self-driving tech, is suing Uber over claims that a former employee stole key technology when he jumped ship for Uber. Google’s earlier self-driving prototypes incorporated Ubuntu computers, and some form of Linux is likely used by Waymo in its newer models. Tesla’s IVI and self-driving tech is also based on Ubuntu.

“We’ve all seen enough shaky cam screen grabs to know that Linux is the engine of choice being used under the hood of the automotive industry’s self-driving experiments,” wrote OMG! Ubuntu!’s Joey Sneddon.

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