Compared to what we drove just a decade ago, today’s connected cars and trucks are practically wheeled computers. From infotainment systems to background processes that interpret sensor data and run advanced driver assistance functions, software has become a fundamental component in modern vehicles. To better manage those countless lines of code, GM announced on Wednesday that it had developed an end-to-end software platform called Ulfiti (rhyming with “multiply”).
The latest GM vehicles are already enjoying features like OTA software updates and built-in internet connection thanks to the company’s Vehicle Intelligence Platform (VIP). The Linux-based Ulfiti is designed to sit on top of that existing architecture and serve as a central hub for select software systems, separating them from basic vehicle operations.
“In all the embedded controllers, we modified them and took the software out of the hardware, making them available to our SOA layer,” said Scott Miller, vice president of Software Defined Vehicle. at General Motors, it was said during a recent teleconference. “We basically abstract them and make them a powerful hub for all vehicle systems.”
“We then add this service-oriented layer to our high-performance computers that we have in the vehicle for infotainment and safety,” he continued. “And we will organize these abstractions as services.”
This will allow GM to develop and deploy updates, new features and applications to customers faster. In essence, Ultifi will serve a similar function that Android does on smartphones – the API layer that lies between the basic hardware and the end user. GM noted that Ultifi will work together with existing automotive operating systems, such as Android Automotive, which GM announced in 2019 that it would start supporting.
“Android Automotive is a specific subset of in-car functionality,” explained Darryl Harrison, GM’s director of global product development. “Ultifi is more of an umbrella overall strategy. Some vehicles will have Android Automotive, and some will have other infotainment applications and services.”
Basically, GM wants to treat your vehicle like a smartphone on the go, offering customers continuous OTA updates, cloud-based personalization capabilities that drivers can transfer from GM vehicles, and smart home connectivity. The company is also considering rolling out various safety and comfort upgrades via OTA, such as using in-vehicle cameras to automatically activate child locks when detecting children in the back seat or remotely closing the sunroof if you park outdoors and in weather conditions rain call forecast.
GM is also considering using Ultifia to provide subscription services to customers, such as the on-demand Supercruise that drivers can provide on long journeys but cancel when they arrive at their destination. Ulfiti could also enable enhanced V2V (vehicle to vehicle) and V2X (vehicle for all) applications, including real-time traffic and hazard updates on the road. Expect to see Ulfiti in select GM vehicles – both internal combustion and EV – from 2023.
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