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Automotive Grade Linux shops for hypervisor to accelerate smart cars

Plan is to put different functions into VMs to improve security, reduce bill of materials

The Automotive Grade Linux is shopping for a hypervisor so that in-car computers can handle lots of different jobs.

The effort has previously delivered an infotainment platform that Toyota has adopted. That platform has now landed as the Automotive Grade Linux Unified Code Base (AGL UCB) 4.0, which the Linux Foundation happily says represents 70-80 per cent of the work needed to build an in-vehicle entertainment hub. Auto-makers won't mind the need to finish things off, the Foundation reckons, because it gives them the chance to add some differentiation.

The new release adds Application Services APIs for Bluetooth, Audio, Tuner and CAN signalling, supports x86, ARM 32 and ARM 64 architectures and is now based on version 2.2 of the Yocto embedded Linux project. Myriad other features are detailed in the release notes.

With all that out of the way, the Linux Foundation has now raised the bar for future AGL releases by adding projects for telematics, instrument cluster and heads-up-displays – all in the same piece of hardware and running as VMs. The organisation has therefore “formed a new Virtualization Expert Group (EG-VIRT) to identify a hypervisor and develop an AGL virtualization architecture that will help accelerate time-to-market, reduce costs and increase security.”

Which is kind of a big deal because cars gain more and more-integrated electronic components each year, but the links between them are often found to be insecure. Integration of multiple units is also challenging.

The Linux Foundation reckons “An open virtualization solution could allow for the consolidation of multiple applications such as infotainment, instrument cluster, heads-up-display and rear-seat entertainment, on a single multicore CPU through resource partitioning.”

“This can potentially reduce development costs by enabling OEMs to run independent operating systems simultaneously from a single hardware board. Virtualization can also add another layer of security by isolating safety critical functions from the rest of the operating system, so that the software can’t access critical controls like the vehicle CAN bus.”

Left unsaid is that auto-makers should like this because it has the chance to reduce the bill of materials in a car, while also making it easier to add more devices to vehicles.

Even if AGL sorts this stuff out in a flash, it could be many years before we see it in cars because the auto industry works on very long product development cycles. Device-makers would then need to target their wares to different in-car boards and package them to run inside whatever hypervisor the Foundation chooses.

The Register imagines Xen's Embedded and Automotive PV Drivers is almost certainly on the Foundation's to-be-considered list, with KVM, OpenVZ and LXC worth a look. The global market for cars is approaching 80m units a year, so perhaps VMware and Microsoft might also be willing to talk about how their x86-only, proprietary, hypervisors could hit the road. ®

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