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GM Seeks to Leverage Open-Source Unix with Red Hat Partnership

Image courtesy of General Motors Co. GM-RedHat-03.jpg
A GM engineer tests the OLED screen for the Cadillac Lyriq, which is a candidate to be an early user of the Ultifi software platform.
GM's new Ultifi software platform, built on Red Hat's Unix operating system, will push GM vehicles from software-enabled to software-defined.

In another sign of the auto industry’s shift from one defined by the stamping of sheet metal and the casting of engine blocks into the digital age, General Motors is partnering with open-source Unix stalwart Red Hat Inc. to deploy the Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating system in GM cars starting in 2023.

Dubbed “Ultifi,” this new GM software platform aims to cultivate an ecosystem of innovation for the software employed in GM cars and trucks.  GM vice president for software-defined vehicles and operating systems, Scott Miller, describes the launch of Ultifi as representing the company’s shift from “software-enabled” vehicles to “software-defined” vehicles.

With the integration of the Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating System into the Ultifi platform, GM and Red Hat look to achieve:

  • Reduced costs from consolidation and reuse of software across a common platform
  • An improved development cycle for faster time-to-market with new customer features and software improvements
  • A continuous functional-safety certification for systems related to safety applications
  • Creation of new services, business models and revenue streams
  • Red Hat will contribute to the phased rollout of Ultifi, GM’s end-to-end vehicle software platform, which will launch in 2023. 

The time to innovate is now,” said Francis Chow, Red Hat vice president and general manager for In-Vehicle Operating Systems. “These new vehicles give our industries a chance to create a common open platform without sacrificing functional safety. By collaborating with GM on the Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating System, we intend to bring the era of open source to the automotive world, benefiting automakers, ecosystem partners, and consumers.”

“General Motors is now a platform company and working with Red Hat is a critical element in advancing our Ultifi software development,” said Miller. “Incorporating the company’s expertise in open-source solutions and enterprise networks will pay dividends as we aim to provide the most developer-friendly software platform in the industry.”

Blackberry is providing a similar platform in a turn-key system for automotive OEMs in the form of that company’s QNX operating system and IVY middleware software layer, touting its benefits for simplified standard interoperability for both carmakers and third-party app developers. GM will chart its own software course through this partnership with Red Hat.

“We chose to work with Red Hat because of its leadership in open source and commitment to meeting automotive functional safety standards,” explained Miller. “By offering the first ASIL-rated Linux platform, we will be able to effectively tap into the innovation of the open-source community while maintaining our strict automotive safety standards.”

By leaning on Red Hat’s experience and exploiting the huge pool of Unix expertise, GM predicts that the open-source course will yield dividends. “With this more flexible architecture and Red Hat helping with the continuous functional-safety certifications, GM’s developers can dedicate more time to in-vehicle experiences and other ways to delight our customers,” said Miller. “Another major benefit is the large talent pool already well versed in Linux. We can hire top-tier talent from outside of the automotive industry and more easily collaborate with third-party app developers.”

The challenge for carmakers in building their vehicles on software platforms is their incredible complexity and the need to certify their cybersecurity from hackers. GM is hoping that by relying on a well-understood operating system they can simplify software updates and their necessary certifications.

Image courtesy of General Motors Co.GM-RedHat-04.jpg

A GM engineer tests the Cadillac Lyriq’s headlights in the lab.

Ultifi will support a variety of in-vehicle safety- and non-safety-related applications, including infotainment, advanced driver assistance systems, body control, and connectivity.

Common Unix standards can help increase software reuse and achieve a more scalable design process, letting GM dedicate more resources toward new personalized in-cabin experiences, vehicle modes, and other features customers will enjoy, the company said.

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