Your browser is not supported. Please update it.

2 June 2017

Toyota makes Automotive Grade Linux’s debut in new Camry

By Jack Vernon

Toyota has announced that its 2018 Camry will be the first car on the market to use Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) for its in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system. A significant win for the open source project, Toyota plans to roll out the AGL platform to most of its Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the company announced this week – in contrast to Audi and Volvo’s move towards Android as their IVI choice.

There is rampant online speculation that this means BlackBerry’s QNX OS and IVI framework will no longer be used in Toyota’s infotainment systems – marking a notable, if partial, loss for BlackBerry. There seems to be a large amount of confusion in online outlets around this issue, but it appears that AGL could be used in conjunction with QNX if desired.

AGL is part of the Linux Foundation, and its members include Daimler, Suzuki, Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan, and Subaru. Toyota will be using AGL to for IVI, however the platform is also being developed to deliver all the software a vehicle might require –  from instrument clusters, heads up displays, telematics, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving. In time, this could lead to AGL encroaching on QNX’s currently comfy market position.

The announcement comes as no surprise, as Toyota has long been AGL’s biggest supporter. The company has deep pockets, as the world largest automaker, with an 11% share of the global car market – which should improve the chance of success for any development projects it is involved in.

Toyota says it has been feeling the pressure to lead in satisfying consumer demand for IVI, and maintain its dominant position in the auto industry. Toyota notes that the AGL platform is flexible, and can be easily rolled out across its vehicle line-up.

The news comes in contrast to Audi and Volvo announcing that they would be using Android for its IVI car platform. Although Android is also an open source platform, it is an ecosystem dominated by Google due to its application licensing practices – something that smartphone vendors are very aware of. Opting for AGL might enable Toyota to expert a greater degree of control over the cars IVI ecosystem, and should alleviate any fears it might have regarding vendor lock-in.

Elsewhere, Toyota has been involved in efforts supported by Ford to promote its SmartDeviceLink (SDL) technology for in-car application experiences. SDL is a framework that allows drivers to use content and features from their phones inside the car, but that also limits the extent to which the phone can sink its teeth into the cars ecosystem – as it dictates how the app can interact with the vehicle. While Toyota is opting for an AGL-based IVI system, we expect the automaker to incorporate SDL on top.

Automakers prize the data generated by both the vehicle and the driver inside their vehicles. In choosing an ecosystem like Android, the likes of Audi and Volvo are giving Google a window into that data and a leverage over the cars ecosystem. Some would argue that a company like Google is better placed to leverage that data on behalf of the automakers, but clearly not all automakers are onboard with this approach.

AGL is hosted by the Linux Foundation and currently has 100 members. AGL is not the only Linux-based automotive group, as the GENIVI Alliance also focuses on developing Linux-based automotive software – although GENIVI remains more focused on the pure IVI functions.

A notable distinction between the two groups is that GENIVI only shares its open source developments through its GENIVI Platform Compliance Specification, which it publishes twice a year – making GENIVI more of a private members club than an open standards development group.

Members of GENIVI include BMW, Delphi, GM, Intel, PSA Peugot Citroen ect, yet we are still waiting for an automaker to announce a IVI system based on the groups specification.

AGL and GENIVI both have similar goals – to not only develop IVI, but also the rest of the automotive software ecosystem. We aren’t sure why the pair haven’t merged their efforts, but for now, there enable two different approaches.

Unlike GENIVI, AGL is focused on building a Unified Code Base (UCB), rather than writing a specification like the GENIVI Alliance. GENIVI issues specification catalogs to members, leaving its members to complete code for applications – meaning that many proprietary extensions are written where the specification ends. AGL’s UCB approach has limited the amount of proprietary code and encouraged participators to work cooperatively.