Automotive Grade Linux just got 7,889,538 times more important

AGL’s Dan Cauchy (c) Bertel Schmitt

The automotive industry’s most important ecosystem just became 7,889,538 times more interesting as Korean Hyundai Group joined the sprawling Automotive Grade Linux movement. Automotive Grade Linux is an open source operating system that is doing for cars what other open source Linux and Linux-like operating systems do for the gadzillions of servers, smartphones, and IOT things in our lives. The 7,889,538 are the units reported by global scorekeeper OICA for the year 2016, officially putting Hyundai in the #3 slot behind Toyota and Volkswagen Group. It is 2019, and official numbers for 2017 are still AWOL, which is more than a little disconcerting.

According to Dan Cauchy, Executive Director of Automotive Grade Linux at the Linux Foundation, Hyundai joining the group “is a significant milestone for us, as the rapid growth of AGL proves that automakers are realizing the business value that open source and shared software development can provide.” The business value is quite evident.

A study conducted by the Linux Foundation says that today’s connected car uses approximately 100 million lines of code, which is about 11 times more than the F-35 fighter and 14 times more than the avionics software in a Boeing 787. According to the study, it is “no wonder that the product development cycle for automotive companies is so much longer than for technology companies.”  With Automotive Grade Linux, 70% of that software is already written, and OEMs can focus on the remaining 30% that set their cars apart from the competition.  What’s more, AGL demands no licensing fees, an important factor in the auto industry, where $10 per car can turn into $100 million by the end of the year.  

AGL was spearheaded by Toyota, which cajoled most of the Japanese auto industry, along with its suppliers, into joining. In the U.S., Ford got on the program, in Germany, Mercedes-Benz. By now, AGL has more than 140 members. Other carmakers still cling to proprietary solutions such as Blackberry’s QNX system. Tesla uses a modified version of Linux Ubuntu, an OS better suited for desktops and laptops. The harsh and demanding environment of a car requires a hardened OS, and this is what AGL delivers.