GM Partners With Red Hat on Open-Source Linux Operating System


Most current vehicle operating systems — the software your car or truck’s systems run on — are based on relatively closed-off, proprietary software packages from businesses such as Research In Motion (the company behind BlackBerry), Tier 1 supplier Continental and Google. GM is looking to change that through a partnership with software firm Red Hat

GM confirmed Tuesday that Red Hat, an IBM subsidiary, will lead the development of a new, open-source Linux-based operating system that will underpin the Ultifi initiative, a cloud-based customer service platform GM announced in 2021. GM’s Ultifi platform will oversee everything from future infotainment operations and battery management to the way the company’s cars communicate with other vehicles, smart infrastructure and even homes. 

What makes Red Hat’s software special compared to the alternatives on the market? Well, a few things, but chiefly, Red Hat’s continuous functional safety certification system. An automotive software developer has to go through a number of safety certification processes to ensure that not only is its software reliable and robust, it’s also appropriately resistant to cyber attacks and similar threats. Safety certification is expensive, time-consuming and it’s carried out repeatedly for every major change or update. Red Hat’s system streamlines that process through another partnership with a company called Exida, which handles the certification.

“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 of software-defined vehicle and operating system, in a statement. “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.”

What does this mean for someone who buys an Ultifi-equipped GM vehicle such as the 2023 Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV in the future? It means much more frequent over-the-air software updates, which can enable new features or address bugs on a more timely basis. It also means the variety of apps and features could expand greatly thanks to a more developer-friendly platform, especially since GM plans to open up its software to “authorized third-party developers who meet strict security, safety and privacy standards.” In short, the new platform sounds pretty cool.

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