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Automotive Grade Linux update clusters up — and IBM’s OpenPower opens up

Aug 22, 2019 — by Eric Brown 811 views

The Linux Foundation’s AGL released UCB 8.0 with new improved profiles for telematics and instrument cluster and launched an Instrument Cluster Expert Group. The LF also gobbled up IBM’s OpenPower Foundation as IBM unveiled a royalty-free Power ISA.

Prior to today’s Embedded Linux Conference and Open Source Summit, the Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) group announced Unified Code Base 8.0, which pushes the AGL spec deeper into telematics and instrument clusters. Also at the San Diego event, the Linux Foundation announced it was converting the IBM-backed OpenPower Foundation into a new LF working group. IBM also announced that it was open sourcing the Power CPU ISA (see farther below).

Automotive Grade Linux UCB 8.0


In Oct. 2018, AGL released UCB 6.0, adding software profiles for telematics and instrument cluster to a Linux distribution and development platform that is still largely devoted to in-vehicle infotainment (IVI). The telematics and cluster work continued through the Mar. 1 release of UCB 7.0, which added features such as open source speech recognition APIs, and has been further extended in the new v8.0 (“Happy Halibut”).

In addition to releasing the Yocto Linux powered UCB 8.0, AGL announced an Instrument Cluster Expert Group (EG) with a mission “to reduce the footprint of AGL and optimize the platform for use in lower performance processors and low-cost vehicles that do not require an entire infotainment software stack.” The EG group plans to release design specifications later this year with an initial code release in early 2020.

Vans Sprinter

In January, the AGL announced new members, including Hyundai, and in April, revealed that Volkswagen had joined the party. IVI systems based on AGL appear to be under development at various auto manufacturers, but so far only Toyota has gone on record as widely deploying AGL-based IVI systems. Mercedes-Benz Vans is also working on AGL-based IVI systems.

In addition to improving the telematics and cluster profiles, UCB 8.0 adds a Telematics Profile demo. Other enhancements include Alexa integration and improved audio and CAN support.

Updates for UCB 8.0 include:

  • Device profiles for telematics and instrument cluster
  • Telematics Profile and demo available
  • Web App Manager (WAM) enhancements
  • Upgrade to Yocto version 2.6
  • Speech integration with Alexa Voice Agent
  • Multi-user security rules for the AGL Application Framework
  • Waltham transmitter and receiver now fully available in IVI and Instrument Cluster profiles
  • Window Manager and Home Screen Services – Window Manager and Compositor consolidation, Activity Manager, Input Manager
  • Audio Policy Manager
  • Pipewire as default audio build option
  • Writing to CAN bus fully supported and secured
  • Extensive Board Support Packages for major automotive reference hardware boards
  • Task manager application now available as an installable widget


BSP improvements include a preliminary Raspberry Pi 4 BSP, an updated Renesas RCar3 package, i.MX6 improvements, and new support for SanCloud’s BeagleBone Enhanced. We thought the BeagleBone Enhanced had disappeared for good since its 2016 announcement but we see that is now listing it for sale starting at $69. The SBC doubles the RAM of the BB Black. It also advances to Gigabit Ethernet, adds a USB port, and offers optional sensors and WiFi. There’s still no sign of the BeagleBone AI, however.

OpenPower goes open source, moves to Linux Foundation

Spurred on by the growing popularity of RISC-V, IBM has decided to offer its Power CPU ISA royalty free with an open source ISA. It has also turned over its OpenPower Foundation to the Linux Foundation, which will adopt it as a working group. IBM and the Linux Foundation made the announcement yesterday at an OpenPower Summit held in San Diego directly prior to today’s ELC/Open Source Summit.

OpenPower appears to be following the path of Wave Computing, which last December announced it was open sourcing selected MIPS ISA and has since begun to do so, releasing TritonAI 64 IP based on 6x open-ISA MIPS-64 cores.

Although the OpenPower news got major media coverage compared to the AGL news, it receives second billing here since unlike some of the MIPS designs, IBM’s Power9 chips are designed for servers, not embedded devices. We still occasionally see related Power architecture embedded devices, such as Artysyn’s NXP QorIQ T2081 and T1042 based COMX-T2081 and COMX-T1042 modules, but NXP is increasingly moving its QorIQ chips to Arm architectures.

The Linux-focused Power and MIPS businesses ain’t what they used to be, but by taking an open ISA approach, IBM and Wave Computing are giving themselves a better chance for rejuvenation. In the server world, IBM’s Power9 still has a substantial chunk of the supercomputing market although it has been giving way to Intel and AMD in the larger server and data center market.

IBM headed down a more open path back in 2013 before RISC-V splashed down when it launched the OpenPower Consortium (now called the OpenPower Foundation) and promised to invest $1 billion in new Linux and open source technologies supporting Power-based systems. The push to open the ISA may have been influenced by IBM’s $34 billion acquisition of enterprise Linux distro queen Red Hat, which closed last month.

As noted by The Register, IBM is not immediately open sourcing the Power architecture to RISC-V levels. (Neither is Wave Computing.) The ISA is now open source and royalty free, but as TechCrunch also notes, only parts of the technical underpinnings required to actually build a Power processor are initially being open sourced.

The OpenPower Foundation will retain its name but will follow a more open governance policy implemented by the Linux Foundation. The LF will will encourage collaboration with its various cloud technology groups to develop “AI and hybrid cloud native applications,” says the open source and Linux advocacy group. The OpenPower Foundation is supported by 350 members, including IBM, Google, Inspur Power Systems, Yadro, Hitachi, Wistron, Mellanox, Nvidia, and Red Hat.

Further information

More information on AGL’s UCB 8.0 may be found in its UCB 8.0 announcement. More on the OpenPower Foundation news may be found in the Linux Foundation’s OpenPower announcement.


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One response to “Automotive Grade Linux update clusters up — and IBM’s OpenPower opens up”

  1. Carl James says:

    Re an update to Automotive Grade Linux UCB 8.0 news item:

    There are now 4 SanCloud BeagleBone Enhanced (BBE) SBCs with 6 variants (with/without antenna). We also launched a new plug-in cape for the BBE Industrial at CES (Las Vegas) in January this year. Known within the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) Membership as the “Automotive Cape”, it supports the open source software from AGL’s Unified Code Base (UCB).

    There are 3 cape variants available:

    GNSS/GPS 3G 4G CAN-Bus Cape
    3G 4G CAN-Bus Cape
    CAN-Bus Cape

    The cape mounts to a special-order BeagleBone Enhanced Industrial SBC to form a high performance, low power and extremely versatile open source development platform with AGL, Buildroot and Yocto support.

    For more info, visit:

    Thank you,
    The SanCloud Team

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