Red Hat Linux is coming to your Vette and Caddy Escalade

Red Hat has partnered with GM to bring RHEL to its new cars.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Linux has long played a role in cars. Some companies, such as Tesla, run their own homebrew Linux distros. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Toyota all rely on Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). AGL is a collaborative cross-industry effort developing an open platform for connected cars with over 140 members. Red Hat and GM are spring-boarding from these efforts to build a new generation of smart cars using Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) as their operating system.

It will do this using a subset of RHEL 9 to power Ultifi, GM's end-to-end software platform. The goal is to eventually make a smart car that incorporates all the abilities of your smartphone and more. Like Tesla, Ultifi-powered GM cars will frequently update their software-defined features online.

If that sounds odd to you, well, say hello to the 2020s. As Chris Wright, Red Hat's CTO, said at Red Hat Summit, "It was just over a decade ago that Marc Andreessen pointed out that software was eating our business. We can update his quote to be more accurate: 'Software has taken over our businesses.'" So, GM, founded in 1908, is now a software company. While gearheads will care more about the latest fifth-generation small-block Chevrolet V8 6.2L* engines, the cars' new software features will make a difference to most drivers.

In the beginning, the fundamental changes will be invisible to drivers. With the integration of the Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating System into the Ultifi platform, the first changes will be:

  • 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.
  • Continuous functional safety certification for systems related to safety applications.
  • Creation of new services, business models, and revenue streams.

Ultifi will launch in 2023.  That means you'll see the Red Hat Linux-powered cars in the 2024 model year. You can expect the first improvements to be in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). This is not self-driving car technology. Instead, it will bring safety improvements to such systems as pedestrian detection/avoidance, lane departure warning/correction, automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot detection. 

Linux has always been one of the safest end-user operating systems. Now, it's on its way to a safer driver operating system.

Editorial standards