Cleveland, Ohio – Anyone hoping for simplicity and consolidation in vehicle electronics should keep wishing. Toyota has placed a big bet on the Linux computer operating system to power information and entertainment systems (infotainment) in its 2018 Camry sedan.
With automakers working to ensure that their cars’ infotainment systems work with Apple and Android products, supporting another operating system is a bit of a head scratcher, but the open-source computer operating system provides a low-cost technology platform.
"The flexibility of the Automotive Grade Linux (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," said Keiji Yamamoto, executive vice president, 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."
With mobile technology changing rapidly and consumer demanding vehicles that work with a wide variety of phones and personal devices, keeping up with technology has been a challenge to automakers. Recent updates to Google’s Android system software, for example, caused Bluetooth voice-recognition systems in some General Motors vehicles to fail.
Apple and Google offer development kits to automakers (iOS CarPlay for Apple, Android Auto for Google) to tie phone functions into vehicle infotainment systems. Though Apple’s system supports Android and vice-versa, picking one or the other means picking which brand of technology has a better chance of staying up to date.
Going with Linux means Toyota probably won’t be the first company to get updates to car-based systems for Apple or Android devices, but it will have an adaptive system that should be able to handle new iterations of operating software.
The AGL infotainment platform was built by hundreds of engineers across the industry who contributed code to develop an application framework with increased security and capabilities. Automakers and suppliers can customize the platform with features, services and branding to meet their product and customer needs.
"Toyota is an early adopter of Linux and open source and has been an active member and contributor to AGL for several years," said Dan Cauchy, executive director of Automotive Grade Linux. "They have been a driving force behind the development of the AGL infotainment platform, and we are excited to see the traction that it's gaining across the industry."
Initially focused on infotainment), AGL programmers plan to address all software in the vehicle, including instrument cluster, head up displays, telematics, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and autonomous driving.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.