General Motors and Red Hat to Collaborate on the Future of Software-Defined Vehicles

General Motors and Red Hat to Collaborate on the Future of Software-Defined Vehicles

Author: Eric Walz   

General Motors announced it will collaborate with open source software company Red Hat to help advance the development of software-defined vehicles with cloud connectivity. Red Hat is best known for its cloud-native, enterprise-grade open source operating system. 

The collaboration will help GM accelerate the development of its software-defined vehicle programs following the launch of its new Ultifi vehicle software platform that was announced in Sept 2021.

With the integration of the Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating System into GM's Ultifi platform, the automaker aims to achieve reduced costs from consolidation and reuse of software across a common vehicle platform. It will also help GM improve its software development cycle for faster time-to-market with new customer features.

As part of the partnership. The companies expect to expand an ecosystem of innovation around open source the Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating System, which is a functional-safety certified Linux-based operating system that will underpin future GM vehicles that will use its new Ultifi software platform.

As a Linux-based system, Ultifi is designed to be standardized for GM developers, suppliers and the developer community at large. Using open source Linux allows for skilled talent from many industries to quickly get up to speed to develop new vehicle functions and features.

Vehicle software that uses a set of common standards helps to increase software reuse and achieve a more scalable design process. It will provide GM with the ability to dedicate more of its resources towards offering new personalized in-cabin experiences, vehicle modes and other features that its customers will enjoy.

"With millions of lines of code sustaining critical systems like driver assistance, fuel economy and more, modern vehicles are more like mobile high performance computers than the cars of the past. The time to innovate is now," said Francis Chow, Red Hat vice president and general manager, In-Vehicle Operating System and Edge. "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."

Automakers are Partnering with Tech Companies on Software-Defined Vehicles

The collaboration between Red Hat and GM is significant, and is another example of an automaker partnering with a technology company to build vehicles that are software based and can receive regular over-the-air software updates to improve vehicle systems or allowing customers to add new functions and features to their vehicles just as easily as downloading apps to a smartphone.

Mercedes-Benz, for example, is working with NVIDIA on software-based vehicle architecture for its future vehicles. While automaker Stellantis is teaming up with Qualcomm Technologies to add high-performance compute power to millions of vehicles.

Stellantis is using Qualcomm's Snapdragon-powered Digital Chassis is a connected vehicle platform that supports the development and delivery of new cloud-connected digital services. 

Vehicle's with the Qualcomm's Digital Chassis will be connected to the cloud nearly 100% of the time and continually process information from their surroundings.

In August 2021, Hyundai announced a similar partnership with Silicon Valley-based software developer Sonatus. The two companies will work to develop software defined vehicles for Hyundai and its brands Kia and Genesis.

With numerous sensors and rich amounts of anonymized data, connected vehicle software presents a uniquely exciting opportunity for software developers to work beyond the limits of typical consumer devices, such as smartphones, and move into the automotive space.

GM announced its new Ultifi software platform in Sept 2021 and said it will "reimagine car ownership". The software platform was designed entirely in-house by GM. It will provide the ability to add new vehicle features and functions and other personalization, making the vehicles an extension of their digital lives. 

The Linux-based Ultifi software platform separates the application software from the hardware  and offers standardized application program interfaces for software development. Creating a more flexible architecture with secure separate layers unlocks the potential for more cloud-based connected vehicle services without affecting any of the basic vehicle hardware controls, such as steering and braking.

Just like an Android or Apple smartphone, GM customers will receive regular vehicle updates and will be able to choose from a suite of over-the-air upgrades for their vehicles, including personalization options. In the future, GM's might even offer an "app store" where customers can purchase and download GM or third party apps right to their vehicles. 

Among the benefits of Ultifi, GM customers will be able to subscribe to and unlock new features, such as GM's new Supercruise automated driving feature or valet parking feature, which can be sold as a subscription or offered as a one-time purchase.

Another possible use case for GM's Ultifi software platform is to unlock settings to increase vehicle performance, such as increasing the available battery power in an electric car. 

For software developers and third party companies, the platform allows them to offer more vehicle features in a fraction of the typical development time, according to GM. In addition, authorized third-party developers who meet the platform's strict security, safety and privacy standards will be given access to the platform to develop vehicle features that will benefit GM customers directly.

GM will also benefit from faster innovation through standardization of open source Linux and cloud-native technologies developed by Red Hat.

"General Motors is now a platform company and working with Red Hat is a critical element in advancing our Ultifi software development," said Scott Miller, GM vice president, Software-Defined Vehicle and Operating System. "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. With Red Hat's operating system as a core enabler of Ultifi's capabilities, the opportunity for innovation becomes limitless."

In-vehicle software systems, which were first pioneered by Tesla, are highly complex. As a legacy automaker, GM's core strengths are not in these fields. For example, connected vehicle software platforms require high levels of cybersecurity protection and stringent certifications due to critical safety priorities, which is the expertise of Red Hat. 

In current vehicle operating systems, these stringent cybersecurity requirements significantly lengthen software development timelines and makes delivering these updates to vehicles more complex and difficult, with each separate update requiring recertification, GM says. 

By working with Red Hat, GM aims to make vehicle updates simpler and more frequent by implementing continuous functional-safety certification into the Ultifi platform with Red Hat's In-Vehicle Operating System. This continuous safety certification approach was announced last year.

The Ultifi platform will also offer the same continuous functional-safety certification for systems related to safety applications, such as advanced driver assist systems (ADAS), body control and automated driving software. It will also aid GM in the creation of new services, business models and revenue streams.

Vehicle software that uses a set of common standards helps to increase software reuse and achieve a more scalable design process. It will provide GM with the ability to dedicate more of its resources towards offering new personalized in-cabin experiences, vehicle modes and other features that its customers will enjoy.

It's still unclear how much revenue GM expects to generate from the Ultifi vehicle software platform, but its potential could be significant as the auto industry moves towards electrification, connectivity and autonomous driving.

Red Hat will contribute to the phased rollout of GM Ultifi software platform that the automaker will launch in 2023.

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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