Coming To A Car Near You: Linux Goes Automotive, Signs Up Harman, Intel, Toyota, Samsung’s Tizen, More

If, one day, we really are all going to be carted around in driverless cars from the likes of Google and others, then we may as well have some apps on board to keep us occupied. Today, the Linux Foundation announced that it was throwing its hat into the car-apps ring, with the creation of the Automotive Grade Linux Workgroup. Early sign-ups among car companies include Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Toyota. Tech companies include Harman, Intel, NEC, NVIDIA, Samsung, and Texas Instruments, along with Tizen, the Linux-based platform backed by Samsung and Intel.

The Linux Foundation is not exactly an early mover here. We’ve already seen “car of the future” odes from the likes of Ford and Honda — not to mention Google — even some suggestions that Apple is working on concepts, too. The point with the Linux news, it seems, is to try to keep it relevant in that wider picture of development, and to try impart some standards in the process.

Members of the group will work together on Linux-based standards for devices and subsequent services to run on them, with some early emphasis on apps for in-vehicle infotainment and “instrumentation cluster” (the technical term for all the different gauges you use to monitor speed, distance, water levels and more; car diagnostics).

“Carmakers can use Linux and open source technologies to accelerate innovation,” the group notes it in its release, pointing out that some $10 billion has already been invested in the platform to date.

Interestingly, Tizen, the Linux-based OS spearheaded by Samsung and Intel about a year ago, is also making an appearance here. Tizen will be working with this new automotive workgroup to create a bridge for apps to work across the two. Samsung had been planning to launch a Tizen phone this year, but this has apparently now been pushed back to some time in 2013. It’s interesting to wonder whether relationships like this one will help push the Tizen agenda at a company still making the bulk of its smartphone revenues from Android — or whether this is actually a sign that Samsung is still sticking by Tizen after all.

The Linux Foundation says that it will also be opening the door for further collaboration “among the Linux kernel community, other open source software communities and the automotive industry.” It also notes that it is already supporting other efforts like the GENIVI Alliance and the W3C workshop on Web and Automotive.

As with mobile devices, achieving scale for automotive projects is an essential part of keeping costs down and making solutions usable as widely as possible. “A community distribution for automotive Linux is essential,” said Ken-ichi Murata, project GM, Toyota Motor Corporation, in a statement. “There are a core set of requirements specific to the automotive industry, and collaborative development can help meet those needs faster and more efficiently.”

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