Group Effort for Automotive Grade Linux Sets the Wheels in Motion

A collaboration of automotive manufacturers, semiconductor and software companies have formed Automotive Grade Linux to develop and adopt an open software platform for connected, secure vehicles.

Automotive manufacture crosses international boundaries, with vehicle manufacturers in Japan and South Korea competing with those in the USA and European countries. The user is also multicultural, with any one country’s roads occupied by an international pool of vehicles. It therefore makes sense to bring together international vehicle manufacturers to dip into that talent pool and select the interior functions, together with the safety and navigation features, for vehicle development. The Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) open source project is just such a collaboration.  It brings together automotive makers, suppliers, and technology companies with the intention of developing and adopting an open software platform for automotive applications. It addresses infotainment, instrument clusters, Heads Up Display (HUD) units, telematics, and connectivity, as well as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), functional safety, and autonomous driving.

The standard platform will save Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) development time and costs as they can share code to include connectivity and functionality in a cost-conscious, time-sensitive environment.

There are over 110 members in the alliance, including founders Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota, with technology companies such as Arm, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Intel, Luxoft, Microchip, Micron, NEC, NVIDIA, NXP, Qt, Synopsy, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, and Wipro.

Figure 1: The 2018 Toyota Camry will have an AGL-based infotainment system. (Picture credit:Toyota)

The AGL Unified Code Base (UCB) is a Linux-based Operating System (OS) and application framework developed to help manufacturers and suppliers develop a de facto industry standard on which to develop infotainment systems and connected car services. Later this year, Toyota will release an AGL-based infotainment system in its 2018 Toyota Camry, before rolling this out to most of the Toyota and Lexus vehicles in North America.

Smarter Vehicles
Last month, Amazon announced that it has established a working group with AGL members Nuance Communications and Voicebox Technologies to simplify the development of voice-enabled apps in vehicles that are compatible with multiple speech-recognition technologies. The vehicles employ open source software to use Amazon’s speech-based digital assistant, Alexa, in vehicle infotainment systems.

Nuance develops embedded, cloud, and third-party speech solutions for customers like Toyota, Subaru, AT&T, Renault, and Mazda. Its Dragon Drive automotive platform is used in over 200 million cars and in more than 40 languages. Voicebox Technologies specializes in contextual voice technology. It builds voice applications, using patented Context Management to model human conversation to break away from the one-question-one-answer staccato voice recognition formula.

“Our goal is to voice-enable every application in the vehicle, but the challenge today is that developers have to manually integrate with each automaker’s preferred speech recognition engine,” declares Dan Cauchy, Executive Director of Automotive Grade Linux at The Linux Foundation. “We plan to provide a standard set of open APIs that allows developers to write their application only once, and it will work on any system from any automaker using AGL, regardless of the underlying speech recognition technology. We believe . . .this will greatly reduce fragmentation and create an ecosystem of speech-enabled apps for the vehicle,” he adds.

“We envisage that customers will have a voice service, like Alexa, with them throughout their day, with continuity between their home and their car. Making it simpler for automakers to implement voice services is a big step toward this vision,” says John Scumniotales, Director of Products at Amazon Alexa Automotive.

With this impetus, AGL could scale voice across the automotive industry.

The race for voice-recognition in vehicles began in earnest this year, as Google announced plans for its Google Assistant to be available for Android Auto software at CES 2018 in January.

Connected Routes
There are estimates that there will be one billion connected cars on the road in the next two years. At CES, Green Hills Software announced its partnership with u-blox, using the latter’s automotive connectivity and positioning technology with the Green Hills INTEGRITY Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS) and Multivisor secure virtualization. The u-blox Toby-L4 LTE Cat 6 Modem series provides in-vehicle cellular connectivity and the RTOS and Multivisor can securely combine Linux-based services with critical application and vehicle bus services in a single Electronic Control Unit (ECU).

Vehicle manufacturers and suppliers can use the open source software to design a scalable system without compromising safety or security, says Green Hills. The combination can be used for remote vehicle monitoring and control, electric vehicle management, eCall (emergency call) or bCall (breakdown call) responses, telematics services and ADAS data.

“Linux (and Android) are feature rich and easy to program general purpose operating systems, ideally suited to In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI), ADAS algorithms and network routing in the connected car,” says Chris Tubbs, Business Development Director, EMEA, Green Hills Software. The connected car, however, demands security and safety, as the Telematics Control Unit (TCU) could be a threat vector in a vehicle. “Green Hills provides the important safety- and security-critical OS system and hypervisor technology on the physical hardware that isolates any threat presented by the vulnerabilities in open systems like Linux,” he reassures. He adds that the OS and hypervisor protect “the car safety systems from attack whilst still allowing the driver to benefit from the rich infrastructure and apps base of Linux or Android.”

Figure 2: Green Hills Software’s Integrity RTOS and Multivisor secure virtualization service.

The embedded development vendor supplies compilers, Multi IDE ,and Integrity RTOS for the three main vehicle domains, the cockpit, the secure gateway, and the driving/ADAS, says Tubbs. “Green Hills has had a dominant market share of the cockpit for a number of years and is working with its partners to provide future secure gateway solutions and the security- and safety-certified path of future self/autonomous driving systems,” he adds.

Security Priority
Security is one of the main concerns around combining open source-based car services in the connected car. The systems have to be reliable for functional safety, but also impenetrable to malicious attacks.  Security can be integrated into the OS, which can act as a building block for the connected vehicle and its differentiating functionality. The Integrity RTOS and Multivisor secure virtualization service isolates critical networking and security tasks from guest OS, other tasks, and AutoSAR applications. The secure, safe, and scalable architecture is well-suited to Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) -certified systems.

“The foundation of a secure system has to be a secure RTOS, and the Integrity RTOS is the most highly certified RTOS in the world,” he asserts. “Its un-hackable partitioning along with secure virtualization provides a contained environment that an open-source OS and applications can be securely run in. Green Hills Software also provides the other components that are required to build a secure platform. They include secure boot toolkit, embedded cryptography toolkit, network security protocols and device lifecycle management (key management and certificates). In combination it provides an end-to-end solution for connected car security,” he says.

AGL member ForgeRock believes that as systems begin to operate autonomously with more automated decisions, not only must the connected devices be trusted, but the data must be secured to maintain system integrity. Rather than using cryptographic security methods, the company offers ForgeRock Edge Security, which ensures the integrity of IoT devices and communications using secure, standards-based tokens, rather than hard coded user names and passwords, or individual Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) certificates, which need to be managed.

Its Identity Edge Controller (IEC) establishes a cryptographic root of trust to create a trusted identity for each smart edge device. The IEC intercepts unauthorized traffic from entering the network. The second part of the company’s Identity Platform is the Identity Message Broker. It is installed in the Cloud or on the edge of the network and works in tandem with the IEC, providing security at the message level over native IoT protocols. It authenticates the source and secures the data and authorizes the data flow using the Access Management mechanism.

Another AGL member, is Microchip, which announced a System on Module to simplify industrial-grade Linux designs at this year’s Embedded World in Nuremberg, Germany (See eeCatalog’s Embedded World 2018 Review).

The SAMA5D2 microprocessor-based ATSAMA5D27-SOM1 System on Module (SoM) features the ATSAMA5D27C-D1G-CU System in Package (SiP), with integrated power management, non-volatile boot memory, Ethernet PHY and high-speed DDR2 memory on a small, single-sided PCB.

Impedance matching is done in the package, not manually during development, so the system will function properly at normal and low-speed operation. Three DDR2 memory sizes (128-Mbit, 512-Mbit and 1-Gbit) are available for the SiP and optimized for bare metal, RTOS and Linux.

For security, the SAMA5D2 microprocessor includes PCI compliance, Arm TrustZone and capabilities for tamper detection, secure data and program storage, hardware encryption engine and secure boot. The SoM also includes the company’s QSPI NOR Flash memory, a Power Management Integrated Circuit (PMIC), an Ethernet PHY and serial EEPROM with a Media Access Control (MAC) address.

There is an accompanying SOM1-EK1 development board and a free Board Support Package (BSP), which includes the Linux kernel and drivers for the microprocessor peripherals and ICs on the SoM.

Figure 3: Microchip removes design complexity with a SAMA5D2-based reference design and production-ready module.


Caroline Hayes has been a journalist covering the electronics sector for more than 20 years. She has worked on several European titles, reporting on a variety of industries, including communications, broadcast and automotive.

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