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Automotive Grade Linux spec v2.0 arrives, adoption grows

Jul 14, 2016 — by Eric Brown — 964 views

The Automotive Grade Linux project released v2 of its open platform for connected cars, and added support for Raspberry Pi, DragonBoard, and Wandboard SBCs.

The Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project, which is developing a “Linux-based, open platform for the connected car,” announced the release of the second version of its Unified Code Base (UCB) distribution for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI). The latest version adds features like audio routing, rear seat display support, the beginnings of an app platform, and support for development boards including the DragonBoard, Wandboard, and Raspberry Pi.

Automotive Grade Linux architecture
(click image to enlarge)

AGL’s Yocto Project derived UCB distro, which is also based in part on the GENIVI and Tizen automotive specs, was first released in January. UCB 1.0 followed an experimental AGL stack in 2014 and an AGL Requirements Specification in June, 2015.

UCB is scheduled for a 3.0 release in early 2017, at which point some automotive manufacturers will finally use it in production cars. Most of the IVI software will be based on UCB, but carmakers can also differentiate with their own features.

New features in UCB 2.0, which will be available for download by the end of the week, include:

  • Rear seat display and video playback — supports simultaneous playback on front and rear displays
  • Audio routing and mixing — based on GENIVI and Tizen audio management, prioritization, and layering
  • Application framework — controls and manages installation, launch, and update of applications, and adds security by assigning resources only to approved apps
  • ConnMan network management — ConnMan daemon based scheme for pairing multiple Bluetooth devices and switching data connections between Bluetooth and WiFi
  • Vehicle bus messaging — rewritten with built-in security to prevent unwanted intrusions and stop rogue apps from communicating with vehicle bus
  • New build environment — faster server that lets developers specify what goes into the build, and submit custom jobs
  • New test infrastructure — enables connect connectivity to a hardware board over the Internet to perform testing
  • New hardware support — NXP Sabre Automotive, Wandboard, Qualcomm DragonBoard, TI Vayu EVM, and Raspberry Pi, adding to previous support for Renesas R-CAR M2 PORTER and R-CAR E2 Silk, Intel boards like the MinnowBoard MAX, and the QEMU x86 64-bit emulator

AGL UCB 2.0 is being demonstrated at the Automotive Linux Summit on July 13-14 in Tokyo. The demo includes rear seat display, video playback, AM/FM radio, wheel input device, navigation, HVAC control, media player and browser, and settings and home screen functionality.

AGL Membership Expands

AGL seems to be eclipsing GENIVI as the leading open Linux car platform. More than 30 new companies have joined AGL in the past year, bringing the membership to more than 70.

The January release of UCB 1.0 was accompanied by the announcement of new members including Ford, Subaru, Mazda, and Mitsubishi Motors. Pre-existing members include Toyota, Nissan, and Jaguar Land Rover, which already offers an AGL-inspired IVI system. The addition of Ford, a longtime Windows Automotive partner, was a particularly significant coup, and the sign-on of automotive IVI component vendors like Harman, Panasonic, and Pioneer was also key.

In recent months, Hyundai has joined, along with dozens of technology companies. These include chipmakers like TI, MediaTek, and Qualcomm, which has launched an automotive-focused, Linux-ready Snapdragon 820a SoC and Connected Car Reference Platform. Previous semiconductor members included Renesas and Nvidia, which has a Linux-compatible Drive PX smart car system based on its Tegra SoCs.

Joining an organization doesn’t equate with a commitment to use its spec. Yet, the AGL has garnered promises to implement UCB from Toyota, as well as chipmaker Renesas and IVI equipment manufacturers like Aisin AW, DENSO, Fujitsu Ten, Harman, Panasonic, and Pioneer.

IVI’s Long Road

IVI systems started appearing in luxury cars about a decade ago around the time of the first iPhone and Android phones, and the oldest Linux-oriented organization focused on IVI — the GENIVI Alliance — was founded more than seven years ago. Yet IVI systems, which combine touch-enabled navigation and infotainment features, and in many cases the communications, safety, and security features provided by AGL’s UCB, are still far from universal.

An IHS report from late December projected that sales of automotive displays of 7.0-plus inches will reach only 33.5 million units in 2021, or less than half of the roughly 82.9 million cars sold globally in 2015.The IVI tide is rising faster, however, as the sales will grow at a rate of nearly 10 percent.

The relatively slow uptake compared to smartphones is due to the conservative nature of the automotive business, which is based largely on the necessary concern for safety. This continues to be a concern as IVI is integrated with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) systems and self-driving cars.

There’s still plenty of time for new contenders to take on leading platforms like QNX and Windows Embedded Automotive. Most of the newcomers run on Linux or the Linux-based Android, with projects based on AGL, GENIVI, or other Linux platforms such as Intel’s In-Vehicle Solutions or the new Qt Automotive Embedded. The Qt Company is an AGL member, and says it will provide backends for AGL, GENIVI, and QNX. Intel’s Wind River subsidiary is also a member.

Android-based IVI systems include Mitsubishi’s FlexConnect.IVI, Renault’s R-Link, and Parrot’s after-market Android IVI solutions. There continue to be rumors that mobile/IVI integration stacks like Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay will turn into full-fledged IVI and telematics platforms.

The automotive business now has sufficient experience with IVI to realize the benefits of a universal open platform. They understand the complications and costs involved with keeping up with increasingly sophisticated, fast-changing technology. Like most other automotive platforms, UCB will support “instrument cluster, heads up display, telematics, and autonomous driving in the future,” says AGL.

“The automotive industry is starting to embrace an open innovation mindset, and OEMs and suppliers are realizing that collaboration and joint development benefit the entire industry,” stated Dan Cauchy, General Manager of Automotive at The Linux Foundation. “The AGL UCB provides the industry with a single, shared platform that will ultimately reduce fragmentation, improve time-to- market and reduce the cost of software development for everyone.”

“The latest version of the AGL UCB distribution marks a significant step toward building a developer ecosystem around the platform,” stated Masashige Mizuyama, CTO, Infotainment Business, Panasonic. “The new platform enables developers to build and test one application that can be supported by multiple OEMs, instead of having to build multiple applications with the same function.”

Further information

More information on AGL UCB, including a link for free downloads, may be found at the Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux website.

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