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Automotive Grade Linux group releases unified IVI spec

Jan 4, 2016 — by Eric Brown 2,377 views

The Linux Foundation released an Automotive Grade Linux Unified Code Base distribution featuring GENIVI components, and announced new members including Ford.

The Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) working group has released an AGL Unified Code Base (UCB) distribution for open source Linux-based in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. The Yocto Project based distribution combines elements from the AGL Requirements Specification released last June, as well as the GENIVI Alliance specification and the Tizen IVI stack, which has served as the first AGL reference design.

The AGL group also announced that Ford, Subaru, Mazda, and Mitsubishi Motors had joined the group as members. The four carmakers, as well as Nissan, Toyota, and Jaguar Land Rover, which already offers an AGL-inspired Linux-based IVI system, are among the first companies to participate in the AGL UCB collaborative project. In addition, Aisin AW, Denso, Fujitsu Ten, Harman, Panasonic, Pioneer, and Renesas Electronics plan to use the UCB stack. The only other automotive manufacturer member of AGL that has not signed on as of yet is Honda.

Tizen UI for home page (left) and browser from last year’s AGL Requirements Specification
(click images to enlarge)

Toyota, Panasonic, DENSO, and Renesas have all upped their sponsorship status to a new Platinum level, joining newcomer Mazda. NTT Data MSE, meanwhile, has upgraded to Gold.


The addition of Ford, which signed on at the lowest Bronze member level, is somewhat surprising in that the carmaker has used Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive for its Ford Sync IVI platform. In other news today, Toyota and QNX announced support for Ford’s open source, GENIVI hosted SmartDeviceLink, an alternative to Android Auto and CarPlay (see farther below).

The open source Linux-oriented GENIVI Alliance, which at times has seemed to be a rival to the upstart AGL, appears to support AGL UCB. There was no testimonial quote, but AGL UCB demonstrations will be held at the GENIVI CES 2016 Demonstration Showcase, Jan, 6-7, in the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. (Yes, it’s going to be “huge.”) Demonstrated applications will include navigation, HVAC control, radio, media player, browser, settings, and home screen.

AGL UCB is initially focused on IVI, but it allows different profiles to be created from the same code base. These could include instrument cluster, heads up display, telematics, and connected car technology profiles, says AGL. The distribution is offered with collaboration tools, enabling automakers and suppliers to “collaborate directly with AGL’s global community of developers to advance the software for connected car applications,” says the AGL.

The AGL UCB distribution includes:

  • Complete Linux-based distribution based on Yocto Project
  • Common IVI layer that can be shared by multiple projects, including AGL and GENIVI
  • Complete open source development infrastructure including Linux Foundation hosted Git code repositories, Gerrit code review, and Jira bug and issues tracking
  • Continuous integration via Jenkins
  • Automated testing infrastructure
  • Westin IVI shell with Wayland IVI extension (from GENIVI)
  • Support for QT multimedia and QML applications
  • Demo applications for Home Screen, Media Browser, HVAC Control and Display, AM/FM Radio, and Navigation
  • First open source MOST device driver developed by Microchip Technology
  • Option for both native and HTML5 applications

MinnowBoard Max

Renesas offers the two main IVI system-on-chip platforms initially supported by AGL UCB: R-Car M2 and E2. Last month, Renesas announced its first 64-bit R-Car SoC, an octa-core Cortex–A57 and -A53 R-Car H3, which features a PowerVR GX6650 GPU, and ISO 26262 safety compliance. Other AGL UCB development platforms are said to include QEMU x86, the Intel Atom based MinnowBoard Max, and “various Intel boards” in addition to the MinnowBoard.

More hardware platforms will be added in the coming months, says the AGL group. Another major SoC used in Linux-based IVI systems include the ARM-based Jacinto 6 from AGL Bronze member Texas Instruments. Meanwhile, AGL members Nvidia, Intel, and NXP/Freescale, are also involved in the automotive space.

“The announcement of this new AGL Unified Code Base distribution is the significant first step in creating an open ecosystem based around a common platform that will accelerate rapid innovation of infotainment features,” stated Ken-ichi Murata, General Manager of BR Connected Strategy & Planning department of Toyota Motor Corp.

Toyota and QNX support Ford’s open source Android Auto alternative

AGL is agnostic when it comes to the two major technologies for interfacing IVI systems with mobile devices: Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay. Today, AGL member Toyota and BlackBerry’s QNX Software Systems division, which furnishes the leading IVI and automotive operating system of the same name, announced support for Ford’s rival device connectivity spec called SmartDeviceLink (SDL), which is hosted by the GENIVI Alliance.

An open source version of Ford’s proprietary AppLink technology, SDL lets developers add extensions to mobile apps so they work over IVI systems. According to CNET, Honda, Mazda, PSA Peugeot Citroen, and Subaru are also considering SDL.

It’s unclear whether Ford will also support Android Auto and CarPlay, which it said it would do in 2014. In 2013, Ford released the proprietary source code for Ford’s Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive based Sync platform to the GENIVI Alliance, and announced plans to work with GENIVI to develop SmartPhoneLink, the forerunner of SmartDeviceLink.

The SDL technology, which was developed by Livio, a recent acquisition of Ford’s, supports the more than 90 apps available on the AppLink platform. According to Forbes, SDL offers automakers more control over the branding of device-related infotainment displays than what is available with the Google and Apple alternatives.

Yet Android Auto and CarPlay each continues to gain traction. Both systems have been supported by companies including Audi, GM, Honda, and Hyundai. This week, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) also announced support for both connectivity specs in many of its Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep branded cars equipped with its newly updated Uconnect IVI system.

Also at CES, Toyota announced that in 2017 a broader range of its vehicles equipped with its Entune IVI system will be available with its Data Communications Modules (DCM), offering always-on cellular data connectivity, according to CNET. The DCM technology, which will be supported by a new Toyota Big Data Center, will transmit data for services and automatically alert emergency services if an airbag deploys. Competitors have installed similar technology on many of their higher-end cars, says CNET.

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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