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Linux-based AGL IVI stack to debut on 2018 Toyota Camry

May 31, 2017 — by Eric Brown — 1,345 views
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The Automotive Grade Linux project’s IVI platform will first appear on the 2018 Toyota Camry. Yet, Google poses new competition with “Android Automotive.”

The Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project announced its first design win for its open source, Yocto Project based Unified Code Base (UCB) distribution for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI). The 2018 Toyota Camry will offer a UCB-based AGL IVI system 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,” said the AGL project, which did not reveal timing.



2018 Toyota Camry with AGL-based IVI view shown at right
(click images to enlarge)

The Toyota debut is unsurprising considering the Japanese carmaker has long been the project’s biggest booster, but it is no less significant. Toyota represents 14 percent of the U.S. automotive market, and has eclipsed GM as the world’s leading carmaker with an 11 percent global share. AGL’s design win comes at a pivotal moment, as Google recently expanded its Android Auto project for mobile communications with IVI systems to advance to a comprehensive Android Automotive IVI project (see farther below).

Over the last two years, AGL has gradually eclipsed the GENIVI Alliance as the main driver of Linux-based IVI, and the project plans to move into ADAS and self-driving car technology in the future. Recent membership wins for the 100-member plus project include Suzuki and Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz).

Other automotive manufacturer members include Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, and Subaru, and most of the major Tier 1 system integrators are onboard as well. Joining AGL doesn’t necessarily mean these companies will release cars with UCB-compliant systems, but additional deployments are likely for next year’s 2019 automotive launches.



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

“The flexibility of the AGL platform allows us to quickly roll-out Toyota’s infotainment system across our vehicle line-up, providing customers with greater connectivity and new functionalities at a pace that is more consistent with consumer technology,” stated Keiji Yamamoto, EVP, Connected Company of Toyota Motor Corp. “Adopting an open source development approach has enabled us to focus resources on developing innovative new features and bringing them to market faster.”

 
Android Automotive

At Google I/O earlier this month, Alphabet-owned Google announced the long-rumored expansion of its Android Auto project into a full-fledged IVI stack. The new Android Automotive stack will first appear on Audi and Volvo cars. Audi hasn’t committed to a timeline, but Volvo says its first Android Automotive Volvo model should hit the road within two years. At Google I/O, Google demonstrated a Volvo V90 and an Audi Q8 running an Android Automotive prototype.

Android Open Source Project (AOSP) code has been shipping in various IVI systems for years in selected car models from Mitsubishi, Renault, McClaren, Hyundai, Honda, and others. Google’s Android Auto has not been involved in these diverse projects, each of which has its own spin on Android. Many car manufacturers have, however, adopted Google’s CarPlay-like Android Auto standard for easing the sync between Android mobile devices and compliant IVI systems.



Mitsubishi’s Android-based triple-display FlexConnect.IVI system
(click image to enlarge)

As ArsTechnica’s Ron Amadeo points out in a May 19 Google I/O report, most of these earlier stacks have run out-of-date Android versions. By contrast, Google aims to push out fresh, Android 7.0 Nougat releases to early customers like Audi and Volvo. Google will provide a safety-minded Android Automotive UI template, which carmakers can then build upon with their own branding. Google then layers its famously popular apps, including Google Maps, on top of that.

AGL has a similar concept, enabling car manufacturers and Tier 1s to differentiate the UI. The AGL platform is a few years ahead of Android Automotive, which already has the advantage of a built-in app ecosystem. The Android Automotive stack currently has no Google Play integration, although it’s presumably coming.

Android Automotive is based on Android Auto, with most of the new features expanding to HVAC and radio controls, says ArsTechnica. The story praises one innovative feature called “garage mode” in which the car wakes up after hours to download updates. As a result, the IVI boot won’t be slowed by app updates when you start the car in the morning.



Android Automotive architecture
(click image to enlarge)

Android Automotive has a hardware abstraction layer (HAL) that keeps the interface consistent despite the physical transport layer. System integraters can “implement a vehicle HAL module by connecting function-specific platform HAL interfaces (e.g. HVAC) with technology-specific network interfaces (e.g. CAN bus),” says Google. They can also integrate a dedicated MCU running a proprietary RTOS for CAN bus access within the Android Automotive framework, which can communicate with it via a serial link.

The base level of Android Automotive is a Vehicle HAL, which is controlled by a VehicleNetworkService layer that adds security features. Above this sits a Car Service stack, which is called by a higher-level CAR API that interacts with the top application layer.

AGL and Google have a long road ahead before they can compete with the IVI heavyweights: Blackberry’s industry leading QNX and Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive. Microsoft took a hit when Ford left it for QNX, but it recently signed up Renault-Nissan. Many other cars offer homegrown proprietary systems or experiments based on Android or open source GENIVI Alliance code. Many of these same companies are experimenting internally with AGL.

Apple’s long-awaited expansion of CarPlay into an IVI system has apparently stalled. Apple appears to be moving away from introducing an “Apple Car,” and is instead planning on developing technology it can sell to makers of self-driving cars. Alphabet has its own Waymo self-driving technology company that so far appears to be independent of the Android Automotive effort. Earlier Google self-driving car prototypes have run Ubuntu.

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