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Toyota to use Linux open-source platform for 2018 Camry; invests USD35 mil. in five-year US research programme




Automotive Grade Linux, an open-source platform delivering connectivity technology for infotainment products, is to debut in the 2018 Toyota Camry and will be rolled out across Toyota and Lexus products over time. In addition, Toyota is investing USD35 million in its Collaborative Safety Research Center in the United States to support research programmes through 2021.

IHS Markit Perspective:

  • Significance:Linux has announced Toyota will begin using its Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) open-source software for future infotainment applications in Toyota and Lexus products, beginning with the 2018 model-year Camry sedan. Separately, Toyota has launched the second phase of its investment in its Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC), called CSRC Next.
  • Implications: Toyota's use of AGL should enable the company to deliver the connectivity consumers are looking for, without surrendering the look and feel of that interface to Apple, through CarPlay, or to Google, through Android Auto.
  • Outlook: AGL is an open-source project to develop a common platform capable of serving as an industry standard or backbone that automakers can use to layer tailored elements on, but one which needs a critical mass of partners to be successful. Adding Toyota, and the high-volume Camry, to the list of partners may improve the efficiency of AGL. The CSRC is only part of Toyota's advanced research network in the US; other research arms include the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and Toyota Connected Car (TC). Toyota's research efforts towards improving safety and developing autonomous vehicle technology are being executed through several different R&D centres. The CSRC is the most collaborative and leverages partnerships with a variety of universities to expand research topics and capabilities.

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry sedan is to use the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) infotainment platform, a collaborative open-source project, and the platform will be rolled out in other Toyota products in future, according to an announcement. In the statement, Keiji Yamamoto, executive vice-president, Connected Company of Toyota Motor Corporation, 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."

A Reuters report quotes Kenichi Murata, group manager of Connected Strategy and Planning at Toyota, as saying, "It's very necessary to reduce the overheads of duplication work among our suppliers so they can spend more time to create new things rather than maintaining fragmentary codes." Murata reportedly said that about 70% of the operating platform for the latest system was largely generic coding, while the remaining 30% had been customised for the all-new 2018 model-year Toyota Camry. The AGL code will be used to operate in-vehicle apps first on the new Camry, and Toyota said it will be rolled out in other Toyota and Lexus products, although it did not specify a timeline. Dan Cauchy, general manager of automotive at the Linux Foundation, says that the attraction of AGL is the ability for automakers to maintain control over their platforms. Reuters quotes Cauchy as saying, "It comes down to an automakers wanting to customise their operating platform to their liking and not having a third party dictating what the applications are going to be for the vehicle. A lot of automakers want that control."

Separately, Toyota has released a 2017 update on its Collaborative Safety Research Center (CSRC) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, US, officially launching CSRC Next and confirming it will direct USD35 million in investment through 2021 to research programmes "designed to support safe transition to future of mobility" in this next, second phase. Initial plans for CSRC Next were announced in 2014. Since 2011, the CSRC has completed 44 research programmes, and Toyota's latest announcement says that the beginning of CSRC Next marks the conclusion of the first phase of CSRC. Over that first five years, the CSRC's key research explored human factors, active and passive vehicle safety technologies, and data analysis and tools development.

CSRC Next's future research will follow four tracks, Toyota said. The first is the potential integration of active and passive safety systems and using advanced pre-crash sensors to improve and personalise crash protection. The centre will also look at building advanced technology vehicle user experience models that improve usability and strengthen the driver-vehicle relationship. In addition, projects will look at driver-state detection, with the target of improving mobility using metrics on physiology and health, as well as applying safety analytics techniques to study naturalistic driving data. "The launch of CSRC Next reflects Toyota's understanding of the importance of human interaction with emerging and advanced vehicle technologies," said Chuck Gulash, director of the CSRC. "These highly advanced systems are radically reshaping the transportation landscape, building a relationship between drivers, occupants and vehicles as teammates working together safely and conveniently. We are excited to continue our safety mission by helping to support a safe evolution to a broader mobility future."

CSRC Next's initial research portfolio includes eight projects in partnership with six schools, according to the statement. Although not all were disclosed, CSRC confirmed it is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab to "develop new systems for autonomous vehicles to perceive and identify objects in their environment and to understand social interactions in traffic". Another partnership is a study with Virginia Tech to estimate issues that may arise after integrated safety systems are deployed, including active and passive systems.

Outlook and implications

AGL is an open-source project to develop a common platform capable of serving as an industry standard or backbone that automakers can use to layer tailored elements on, but one which needs a critical mass of partners to be successful. Adding Toyota, and the high-volume Camry, to that list of partners may improve the efficiency of AGL. The CSRC is only part of Toyota's advanced research network in the US; other research arms include the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) and Toyota Connected Car (TC). Toyota's research efforts towards improving safety and developing autonomous vehicle technology are being executed through several different R&D centres. The CSRC is the most collaborative and leverages partnerships with a variety of universities to expand research topics and capabilities.

To date, AGL boasts more than 100 members and 10 automakers. Other automakers involved include Mercedes-Benz, Mazda, Suzuki, and Subaru. Toyota, among a few other automakers, has been resistant to using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in its vehicles; the AGL is part of Toyota's solution to delivering the technology and connectivity that users are looking for, without giving away the interface or control. Other solutions to who controls the driver interface include Google's latest Android operating system, which has enabled Honda, Volvo, and Audi to offer systems that deliver the technology and retain the automaker's displays.

The CSRC was established in 2011, and in 2013 it revealed a concept to reduce driver distraction at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The CSRC focuses on collaborative research into safety, with some technology concerning the future of self-driving vehicles, but the research also includes a significant amount on how people drive today and interact with vehicles and during crash situations, as well as how they will adjust to varying levels of assistance. Toyota's investment in CSRC has totalled USD70 million through early 2017, according to the CSRC 2017 report.

Toyota's Teammate Concept on developing autonomous technology has evolved in part as a result of the CSRC's research, and is embodied in the Concept-i shown at CES 2017, although Concept-i was developed by the Toyota Research Institute, a USD1-billion artificial intelligence R&D company of the Toyota group.

The CSRC 2017 report suggests that the Teammate Concept may be the "best approach to the incremental growth of driver assistance. In essence, the idea is that the driver and vehicle are partners in keeping each other safe." Senior principal engineer at CSRC Heishiro Toyoda says that, as vehicles increasingly receive over-the-air updates, drivers will need to monitor changes to systems and to be educated on the new capabilities. Toyoda said, "There's this idea that the machine will one day be perfect, but that may never happen. The machine isn't 100% perfect, and we're not 100% perfect, so the idea of the Teammate Concept is more like an interpersonal relationship where you build trust. Maybe you don't have complete trust at the start of a relationship … but over time you build understanding. If we can design the system to study the driver, and the driver learns how much to trust the system you get a deeper level of trust, and the feedback changes over time, and improves. That's how these assistance systems can work more safety and smoothly." Should such an arrangement prove to be central to a consumer's interaction with an autonomous vehicle, there is also potential for creating an emotional connection and to reduce the risk of an autonomous vehicle being perceived as a commodity, as well as improving safety. The CSRC's research results affected TRI's Concept-i development and are expected to inform decisions that Toyota makes on developing and deploying safety systems and autonomous vehicles going forward. The CSRC's research over the past five years has raised notable questions about how people interact with vehicles, and about how to research and assess people's and machines' behaviour to create a safer result. More details on specific CSRC and CSRC Next projects can be found on the CSRC website.

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The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends. Get a free trial.

About The Author

Ms. Stephanie Brinley is Senior Analyst-Americas, IHS Automotive, covering North and South America for the IHS World Markets Automotive service.

She is responsible for a daily update of news, events, interviews and product introduction summaries as well as special research reports and company profiles, providing context for and analysis of industry developments to worldwide subscribers. She joined IHS Automotive in summer 2013 with more than 20 years of experience in the automotive sector, including a decade in automotive analysis, four years' experience in supplier-based strategic communications and as a supplier-OEM marketing liaison, and several years on the editing side of a top automotive enthusiast publication in the United States. Ms. Brinley holds an a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations and Marketing from Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Mich., and an MBA in Integrative Management from Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business, Lansing, Mich., US.