Elon Musk's new tractor trailer can handle most US shipping routes on a single charge. Way back in 2004, Jonathan Schwartz, then Sun's chief operating officer, suggested that cars could become software platforms the same way feature phones were. But, it's Linux, not Java, which is making the most of "smart cars". That's because Linux and open-source software are flexible enough to bring a complete software stack to any hardware, be it supercomputer, smartphone, or a car. There are other contenders, such as Blackberry's QNX and Microsoft IoT Connected Vehicles, but both have lost ground to Linux.
Linux doesn't just run your servers and, via Android, your phones. It also runs your cars. Of course, no one has ever bought a car for its operating system. But Linux is already powering the infotainment, heads-up display and connected car 4G and Wi-Fi systems for such major car manufacturers as Toyota, Nissan, and Jaguar Land Rover and Linux is on its way to Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Subaru cars. All the Linux and open-source car software efforts have now been unified under the Automotive Grade Linux project.
Toyota is embracing a wide open platform for its next generation of vehicles, giving itself even more options to keep drivers entertained and engaged as cars become more connected. The automaker's 2018 Camry will be the first car available in the U.S. market to include an Automotive Grade Linux (AGL)-based infotainment system. AGL, an open source platform based on the Linux OS, will be the backbone of Toyota's own Entune 3.0 system. AGL, which is supported by the Linux Foundation and boasts a membership roll of more than 100 of the biggest players in the auto and tech industries, aims to provide carmakers with a pliable base to develop new software for their connected cars and unify the various dashboard systems into one industry standard. The open source platform means that even more apps and connected features could be available from developers who have access to its SDK, which could even bring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay directly into the Camry's dash.
Automotive Grade Linux could be the answer to today's woefully fragmented, often frustrating automotive operating-system landscape. A project of the Linux Foundation, AGL is currently focused on providing an operating system for in-vehicle infotainment consoles. But its backers envision an OS that can control instrument clusters and handle everything from connected-car features to autonomous vehicles. Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Ford, and Jaguar Land Rover are all participating. I spoke with Dan Cauchy, general manager of the Automotive Grade Linux project at the Linux Foundation, to learn more about this project.
When Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto were first introduced over two years ago, most automakers quickly signed on to add the tech companies' smartphone integration platform to bolster their own similar although mostly mediocre systems. But as the world's largest automaker, Toyota was conspicuously absent in welcoming Apple and Google into its dashboards. It's not difficult to understand why Toyota had reservations about bringing them onboard. And these concerns soon surfaced among automakers that second-guessed the wisdom of giving up valuable dashboard branding and--more importantly--driver data to the two tech giants. Now that Google and Apple's self-driving car projects have hit speed bumps, the companies appear to be pivoting towards providing software for automotive purposes and looking to further integrate dashboards.