Linux Rolls Out to Most Toyota and Lexus Vehicles in North America


At the recent Automotive Linux Summit, held May 31 to June 2 in Tokyo, The Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project had one of its biggest announcements in its short history: The first automobile with AGLs open source Linux based Unified Code Base (UCB) infotainment stack will hit the streets in a few months.

In his ALS keynote presentation, AGL director Dan Cauchy showed obvious pride as he announced that the 2018 Toyota Camry will offer an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system based on AGL’s UCB when it debuts to U.S. customers in late summer. Following the debut, AGL will also roll out to most Toyota and Lexus vehicles in North America.

AGL’s first design win is particularly significant in that Toyota owns 14 percent of the U.S. automotive market. The Japanese automaker recently eclipsed GM as the world’s leading carmaker with an 11 percent global share.

The announcement came around the same time that Google tipped plans for an expansion of its Android Auto project for mobile communications with IVI systems to a comprehensive Android Automotive IVI project. The Android Automotive stack will first appear on Audi and Volvo cars, with the first Volvo model expected in two years.

If all goes to plan, Toyota’s 2018 Camry rollout will occur just over three years after AGL released its initial automotive stack based on Tizen IVI. This was followed a year later by the first AGL Requirements Specification, and then the UCB 1.0, an overhauled version based on Yocto Project code instead of Tizen.

Rapid development

That may seem like a long road compared to many open source projects, but it’s remarkably rapid for the comparatively sluggish automotive market. During that same period, AGL has also racked up an impressive roster of members, including automotive manufacturers like Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Subaru, Toyota. Other members include most of the major Tier 1 system integrators, as well as a growing list of software and services firms.

In his keynote, Cauchy seemed genuinely surprised at how quickly AGL has grown. “Back in 2015 at our first meeting, we had four core members — Honda, JLR, Nissan, and Toyota — and today we have 10 OEM automotive manufacturers,” said Cauchy.  “In 2015, we had 55 members, and we now have 98. We’re seeing a whole range of companies including middleware and services developers, voice recognition and navigation companies, and telecom companies that want to be part of the connected car. We have over 750 developers on the primary AGL mailing list.”

The pace is faster compared to Cauchy’s previous experience acting as a GENIVI Alliance board member and chairman of GENIVI Compliance back when he was developing an IVI platform at MontaVista. GENIVI eventually signed up a similar lineup of companies for its Linux-based, mostly open source IVI standard, but the momentum started flagging when it became clear that the standard was not solid enough to permit significant reuse of code from vendor to vendor.

AGL’s UCB is the specification

Many of the same companies have since joined AGL, which integrates some GENIVI code. The key difference is that instead of defining a specification, AGL’s UCB is the specification. Everyone agrees to use the same Linux distribution and middleware, while leaving the top layers customizable so each manufacturer can differentiate.

“AGL exists because the automakers realize they’re in the software business,” Cauchy told the ALS attendees. “AGL is a code first organization — we believe that specifications lead to fragmentation. Today, you have Microsoft and QNX and multiple flavors of Linux, and there’s no software reuse.”

As AGL Community Manager Walt Miner explained in a February presentation at the Embedded Linux Conference, GENIVI never pushed the specification far enough to be useful. “With specifications, multiple vendors can claim compliance, but you end up with different platforms with slightly different code,” said Cauchy. “We’re about building a single platform for the whole industry so you can port your software once, and it’s going to work for everyone.”

The ability to reuse code leads to faster time to market, which will soon enable new IVI systems to roll out every year rather than every three years, said Cauchy.  As a result, consumers will be less tempted to navigate and play music from a cell phone placed on the dashboard with all the safety hazards that implies.

New model

“We want to break that old supply chain model with a new model where the platform survives and evolves,” said Cauchy. “This will bring the industry on par to what consumers are expecting, which is more like cell phones.”

Cauchy went on to discuss the evolution of UCB last year from Agile Albacore to Brilliant Blowfish and then Charming Chinook. “The industry can now rely on us to have a release every six months, so companies can make product and deployment plans.”

Cauchy also announced release candidate 1 of Daring Dab, which will be available in a final release on July 22. As Miner explained at ELC, Daring Dab will tap Yocto Project 2.2 code, as well as secure signaling and notifications, smart device link, and application framework improvements such as service binders for navigation, speech, browser, and CAN.  An Electric Eel release will follow in six months with features like back ends for AGL reference apps working in both Qt 5 and HTML5.

Electric Eel may also include the first implementation of a headless telematics profile. “We’re redefining our architecture in layers so we can properly support a headless profile that runs on a lower performance chip and doesn’t need a display or infotainment,” said Cauchy. “We want to build our requirements out for ISO 26262 functional safety compliance to see if we can use the Linux kernel.”

Beyond that, AGL will move into instrument cluster and heads up displays, followed by ADAS “and eventually autonomous driving,” said Cauchy. “We want to be in every processor and every function in the car. This is really taking off.”

You can watch the complete video below:

Learn more from Automotive Linux Summit, which connects the community driving the future of embedded devices in the automotive arena.  Watch the videos from the event.