The connected car is shifting into high gear, and the Linux Foundation wants an open-source platform in the pole position. The non-profit consortium recently announced the debut of Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), a customizable, open-source automotive software stack with Linux at its core.
There have been Linux-based car systems before. The difference here is that the Linux Foundation is pushing AGL as the core automotive system for developers — the groundwork, as opposed to a production-ready system like Ford Sync or QNX. As Debian Linux is to Ubuntu, so the AGL aims to be for a future in-car system from the Hyundais and Toyotas of the world.
The AGL does come with a core set of capabilities. The platform is based on the Tizen In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) Project (yes, thatTizen) and includes a variety of in-car software for climate control, maps, dashboard displays, media playback, and smartphone links. The Linux Foundation says the AGL can also support mission-critical systems, such as roadway instrumentation.
But when it comes to in-car platforms, the software is only as good as the industry support and adoption behind it. AGL's off to a good start in that area. Among the companies participating in AGL are four major car makers including Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, and Toyota. Other big players involved include Advanced Telematic Systems, Fujitsu, Harman, Intel, LG, NEC, Panasonic, and Samsung.
It's not clear when we might see the first AGL-equipped cars hit the road. Given the several-year production cycles of cars, it could be a while.
Interfaces, automotive OS platforms abound
With the smartphone wars all but won by Apple and Samsung (at least in North America), the car is one of the next great battlefields for technology providers.
Apple and Google are currently revving up CarPlay and Android Auto, respectively. Following the lead of MirrorLink, they're interfaces designed to run on top of compatible infotainment systems, providing deep integration with apps on your smartphone. Unlike CarPlay and Android Auto, though, MirrorLink is not tied to a specific phone platform.
But while Google is content to merge smartphones with cars for now, it is also looking to turn Android into a complete embedded system via the Open Automotive Alliance. The OAA has massive support from the automotive industry, and the first Android-based cars are expected to roll off production lines later in 2014.
Microsoft is also beefing up its automotive embedded systems with a new version of Windows for cars, as well as a similar Android Auto/CarPlay solution for Windows Phone.
It's a confusing world of automotive platforms out there and, it seems, everybody wants in.
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