2018 Toyota Camry to feature Linux-based infotainment system in the US

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The next-generation Toyota Camry will be the first car, at least in the US, to feature an infotainment system based on the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) operating system.

In a statement, Keiji Yamamoto, head of Toyota’s Connected Company, said: “The flexibility of the AGL platform allows us to quickly roll out Toyota’s infotainment system across our vehicle line-up, providing customers with greater connectivity and new functionalities at a pace that is more consistent with consumer technology.

“Adopting an open source development approach has enabled us to focus resources on developing innovative new features and bringing them to market faster.”

AGL-powered infotainment systems will debut in the North American Camry range, which goes on sale during the third quarter of 2017.

In time these systems “will roll out to most Toyota and Lexus vehicles in North America”.

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Above: Infotainment system on the next-generation Camry.

What is Automotive Grade Linux?

The Automotive Grade Linux project is a push by the Linux Foundation to develop an open source operating system (OS) that can be used by any manufacturer. Unlike most, if not all, OSes currently used in infotainment units, AGL is designed to also power driver assistance and autonomous driving systems as well.

As its name suggests, Automotive Grade Linux is a variant of the Linux operating system, which is popular on servers. Like iOS’ relationship with Apple’s Mac OS, AGL is stripped back and repurposed version of Linux designed for a specific environment and a particular set of use cases.

If enough automakers take up the platform, it’s hoped updates and new features will spread more quickly throughout production vehicles, and reduce development time and cost.

As with existing infotainment operating systems, AGL allows car makers to to add their own features and interfaces over the top.

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Above: BMW iDrive.

What are the alternatives?

Many car makers, including Audi, BMW and Ford, have begun coalescing around Blackberry’s QNX operating system for the entertainment systems.

Despite infotainment systems making leaps and bounds over the past few years, many believe the automotive industry is failing to keep up with the pace of technological change.

Both Google and Apple, the brains behind the Android operating system and the iPhone, respectively, have tried to fix this by launching the Android Auto and CarPlay mirroring standards for their devices.

More and more cars are being offered with one or both of these technologies, and this has, largely, been embraced by consumers. Some automakers, chiefly Toyota, have baulked at the tech titan’s terms and conditions, as well as their loss control over a central part of user experience.

Interestingly, this week’s AGL announcement by Toyota makes no mention of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support.

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