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Automotive Grade Linux takes center stage for open automotive standards

May 4, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,083 views
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At ELC 2017, Walt Miner of Automotive Grade Linux explained how AGL differs from GENIVI, and surveyed the road ahead toward this July’s Daring Dab release.

After working for seven years at Tier 1 automotive suppliers that were members of the GENIVI project, Walt Miner, the Community Manager for the Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project understands the challenges of herding the car industry toward a common, open source computing standard. At the recent Embedded Linux Conference, Miner provided an AGL update, and summarized AGL’s Yocto Project based Unified Code Base (UCB) for automotive infotainment, including the recent UCB 3.0 “Charming Chinook” release.



Walt Miner shows AGL’s UCB release schedule at ELC 2017
(click image to enlarge)

Recent membership wins for the project include Suzuki and Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz). And, at the end of April, AGL announced six more new members, bringing the total to 96: ARCCORE, BayLibre, IoT.bzh, Nexius, SELTECH, and Voicebox.

In addition to Suzuki and Daimler AG, other automotive manufacturer members include Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota. Joining AGL doesn’t necessarily mean these companies will release cars with UCB-compliant in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. However, Miner says at least one UCB-enabled model is expected to hit the streets in 2018.

“Our goal is to build a single platform for the entire automotive industry that benefit Tier 1s, OEMs, and service providers so everyone has a strong base to start writing applications,” said Miner. “We want to reduce fragmentation both in open source and proprietary automotive solutions.”

Miner said that AGL has several advantages over the GENIVI Alliance spec, parts of which have been rolled into UCB along with a much larger chunk of Tizen’s automotive code. Miner previously worked for two Tier 1s, but despite being GENIVI members, “they never collaborated” with other Tier 1s, he said.

“By contrast, at AGL, we have Tier 1s collaborating in real time on the same software. We have had hackathons and integration sessions where we had 35 to 40 people from 20 to 25 companies working on the same code. In 2016, we had a totally 1,795 commits just on the master branch from 45 committers and 24 companies.”

AGL is a “code first” organization, said Miner. Instead of writing specs and hoping vendors stick to them, AGL has developed an actual Linux distribution that can bring Tier 1s and auto manufacturers “70 to 80 percent toward developing a product that ends up in a vehicle,” he added.

By comparison, “GENIVI provided function catalogs that were supposed to be common across the industry, but the catalogs were incomplete, so all the manufacturers went off and specified their own proprietary extensions,” said Miner. “We found we were constantly reimplementing these ‘standard’ function catalogs, and we could not reuse them going from manufacturer to manufacturer.”

Miner went on to describe the development cadence for the AGL project, which follows its Yocto Project base by about nine months. He also discussed new features in UCB 3.0 Charming Chinook, including application packaging and widget installation, as well as a switch to systemd for application control. There’s a new template for an application framework service binder APIs, as well as an SDK for app developers. Reference apps are available for home screen, media player, settings, AM/FM, and HVAC.

Official reference platforms now include the Renesas R-Car 2 Porter board, Minnowboard Turbot, Intel Joule, TI Jacinto 6 Vayu board, and QEMU. There are also emerging community BSP “best effort” projects from third parties, including the Raspberry Pi 2/3, NXP i.MX6 SABRE board, and a DragonBoard.



Two UCB 3.0 interface screens from AGL’s CES 2017 demo

Miner played a video of AGL director Dan Cauchy demonstrating UCB 3.0 at January’s CES show. The demo revealed new functionality such as displaying navigation turn-by-turn instructions on the instrument cluster for reduced distraction, as well as multimedia playing over the MOST ring using “the first open source MOST device driver in history,” according to Cauchy.

Finally, Miner described some of the activities in AGL’s six expert groups: application framework and security, connectivity, UI and graphics, CI and automated test (CIAT), navigation, and virtualization. He also surveyed some new features coming out in the Yocto 2.2 Daring Dab release in July. These include secure signaling and notifications, smart device link, and application framework improvements such as service binders for navigation, speech, browser, and CAN.

In December, AGL hopes to release Electric Eel, a release that will add back ends for AGL reference apps working in both Qt 5 and HTML5. Other planned improvements include APIs available as application framework service binders, IC and telematics profiles, more complete documentation, and an expanded binder API capability for RTOS interoperability.

Future UCB versions will move beyond the IVI screen and instrument cluster. “AGL is the only organization planning to address all the software in the vehicle, including HUD, telematics/connected car, ADAS, functional safety, and autonomous driving,” said Miner.

As AGL moves into telematics, there are complications due to the need to interface with legacy, often proprietary technologies. “The vehicle signal architecture we’re working on will abstract the CAN or MOST layers in a secure manner so applications don’t need to know anything about the native CAN,” said Miner. “Microchip has been working on native CAN drivers for AGL, but the messaging and vehicle topology is proprietary, so we’ve asked OEMs to provide typical and worst-case network topologies in terms of things like message rates. We can then build a simulator based on that topology.”

More on these future directions should be on tap at the Automotive Linux Summit held May 31 to June 2 in Tokyo.

You can watch the full video below:




Video presentation of Walt Miner’s “Linux You Can Drive my Car” presentation at ELC 2017

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