2014: The year of the Linux car?

2014: The year of the Linux car?

Summary: You read that right: Not the year of the Linux desktop, the year of the Linux car. Major automotive companies are investing in making Linux their cars' operating system of choice.


When you think about Linux, you probably think about servers, desktops, and Android smartphones and tablets. What you almost certainly don't think about is cars, but Linux is already running under the hood of many cars, and it may play a much larger role soon, too.

Say hello to Linux running under the hood of your car. (Image: Linux)

That was the message Matt Jones brought to the Linux Foundation's Linux Collaboration Summit in San Francisco, California. Jones is a senior technical specialist for Jaguar Land Rover infotainment systems and VP of a non-profit automotive industry group driving adoption of an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) open-source development platform, GenIVI Alliance.

Jones said that Jaguar Land Rover had asked their customers what they wanted, and they didn't want much — just a full-featured home entertainment network in their cars. Of course, while you can put a HDTV-quality display on the front-dashboard, providing the high-speed networking in city traffic is a problem well outside the automobile industry's purview.

What the automotive businesses can do, and are working toward in the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), a Linux Foundation sub group, is providing a common operating system and application programming interfaces (APIs). With this, car manufacturers can focus on delivering applications and not worry about operating system infrastructure. After all, as Jones said, "When was the last time you bought a car based on its operating system?"

During his keynote, Jones announced that AGL had released a prototype IVI & remote vehicle interaction operating system and application development package. This is a Linux-based open-source image for creating an IVI system along with a controller area network (CAN), a vehicle bus standard, API; a HTML5 application framework; and sample user interface.

Jones said, "We [Jaguar Land Rover] are involved with AGL to enable open source and Linux within automotive as a whole, and focus on making it easier for developers with reference hardware and software platforms. Such technology has long been available in lots of vehicles, but nobody has given it away before". So if you're ready to "hack" a car, the AGL has the tools you'll need.

AGL and Jaguar Land Rover are also giving developers reason to start car hacking. The pair have announced a developer contest: 2013 AGL User Experience Contest. The winner will get the chance to work with the AGL and Jaguar Land Rover.

There are three categories: Best user experience, best visual appearance, and best new concept or additional feature. The contest runs April 15 — May 17, and winners will be announced at the Automotive Linux Summit in Tokyo at the end of May. If you want to work with Linux and cars, this seems like an ideal chance to get in on the ground floor.

Related stories

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Open Source, Software Development

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • SJVN and Linux is over....

    After 20 years of struggle....its finally over...
    • No

      The worst you could say is "Linux on the desktop is over".

      Linux is, and has been for a long time, a big player in a lot of arenas.
      Michael Alan Goff
      • Linux will dominate the whole battleground...

        ...and i can see lots of M$-bodies laying their dead, badly wounded or withdrawing ... M$ like German Army in late 1943 or 1944: fighting back but loosing in all fronts. Where's the new Colonel Stauffenberg for Redmond?

        Windows is indeed old, slow, fat and out-of-date. Sorry M$-fan boys but that's the way things are happening.
        • I'm going to give you free advice

          Actually, two pieces of advice

          a) Stop using M$, it makes it painfully obvious that you're a troll
          b) Put down the drugs, Windows won't die anytime soon. And it isn't "old, slow, fat, and out of date".
          Michael Alan Goff
          • yeah

            your advice is worth it's price
  • Linux - I can't even get my printer work with it...

    No, thank you.
    • Have to agree there.

      I've just checked CUPS and sadly the Fisher-Price Myfirstprinter isn't supported.
      Alan Smithie
    • Thats ok. You have enough trouble with basic writing.

      Brush up on reading, maybe then you will have something to write... and then maybe you will be able to read the directions...
    • Errr

      You plug in the printer and it works.

      How do you have such problems with something so simple?
      Michael Alan Goff
      • A Hint

        Most printers won't work without either ink or toner. You have to be bright enough to know which is which.
    • So what you are saying

      Let me translate that:
      "Oh, I am too dumb to turn the power on and wonder why Linux does not print!"
    • That's because your just too dumb

      Connect the printer to a power cord and try again.
      Deep Thinker
      • re :That's because your just too dumb

        Plug the printer in first, then reboot. Some printers are like that, they need to be detected the first time during boot. That has never failed me. I haven't used Windows since 3.1 and don't miss it at all. Ric
    • Well then,

      You are obviously handicapped by your Windows knowledge. I've never had a problem getting a printer to work in Linux. Of course, YMMV.
    • oh sure, Linux is not for everyone

      It's for smart people.
  • 2014: The year of the Linux car?

    Absolutely not! I don't want any car on the road that has linux on it. Talk about kernel panics, you will have driver panics and all kinds of crashes both in software and physical. Imagine trying to start the car. You have to log in, configure it, test the configuration, look for the start up keys, use them. That's 6 hours wasted. Then there will be forked cars because no two linux users can agree on the same car. This is a very very bad idea and is going to end in a huge mess. I will laugh at anyone who shows me linux in their car.

    "When you think about Linux, you probably think about servers, desktops, Android smartphones and tablets."
    No, I think about constantly having to recompile the kernel, what the next security vulnerability is, why they haven't closed the telnet port, and a whole handful of other issues that linux brings to computing.
    • Thank god it's not Windows

      Otherwise some script kiddie in China or Russia will take control, crashing it causing a BSOD across the wind-shield.
      Alan Smithie
      • Windows

        That would be Ford. They use Sync, which is an embedded version of Windows.
      • Windows BSOD In Cars Already Done.

        Back about 8 years ago if my memory isn't faulty, BMW had a car model that ran Windows. Yes, it did BSOD on the LA Freeway. The LA Fire Department had to get the poor driver out with the 'Jaws of Life'.

        Turned out he was a high powered Lawyer. BMW lost out Big Time. Just like so many other 'Valued Microsoft Partners' over the years.

        Of course, the Microsoft boosters will say 'But Windows is so much better now', just as they have always said, since the days of DOS 3.0. But, would you trust your life to an OS like that, when you need 365/24 reliability, and you know it can't run for over a month without some sort of shutdown?
    • Windows would clearly be better...

      When you're right, you're right. Damn.

      Of course, there's a reason I don't recompile the Windows kernel to fix the security issues.

      Perhaps you could help me though. I'm having a problem with the 20ish Linux installations I manage. I haven't been able to telnet into any of them. Could you give me some tips?

      LD, this is your worst trolling to date. Please, for your own dignity, step it up a "gear".