Currently software in automobiles is at best a Tower of Babel, with different suppliers providing their own software and no underlying system to unify them. That may change—and soon—as some vendors are moving toward open source Linux as a solution.
Automotive Grade Linux is an initiative of mostly Japanese OEMs such as Mazda, Toyota, Nisson, Mitsubishi, Ford, and Honda. Others include Renesas, Denso, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Pioneer, Wind River, supplier Continental and chipmakers NXP, nVidia, Texas Instruments and Intel are also active. AGL started as a working group within the Linux Foundation.
“The automotive industry has fallen behind the smartphone industry in terms of software,” said Dan Cauchy, General Manager of Automotive at the Linux Foundation, in an interview with EETimes. “Many customers and suppliers ask themselves why they should pay so much money for software, in the first place in the infotainment segment. There is very little software reuse, which makes all developments extremely expensive.”
The goal is to create a platform, running Linux as the operating system. It would provide the basic underlying functionality; OEMs would be able to implement their distinctive features on top. “Our goal is providing a single, consistent platform for the entire car industry”, Cauchy said.
There have been specific attempts to harmonize software, consider the infotainment space. One such group, Genivi, is comprised of several OEMs, Tier 1, and middleware suppliers. Together they are creating an open standard for the broad adoption of specified, open source, In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) software.
“Genivi is a “bring-your-own-platform software”, Cauchy told EETimes. “It is a specification for many platforms, but it is not one platform,” with one of the reasons for this diversity lying in the wide spectrum of hardware platforms to be served. “In contrast, AGL is one single software platform, downloadable now.” He also noted that Genivi is not open to the world, only members.
Cauchy also said that just following ISO 26262 is simply not enough and sees the development of AGL as complementary. “We see no contradiction between the development processes established in the open source world and the strict rules of ISO 26262,” Cauchy said. “Actually, the principles of open source development lead to safer code. In the long term, every rogue code can and will be eliminated.”