General Motors is working to accelerate the development of software-defined vehicles by joining a collaborative effort to make the process easier across the auto industry.
The automaker on Thursday said it is joining the Eclipse Foundation, a global association that promotes open-source software development, and will work with the foundation's Software Defined Vehicle Working Group. GM will contribute technology it's calling uProtocol, which connects vehicle applications to the cloud and mobile devices and allows software components to communicate more easily across multiple operating systems.
Frank Ghenassia, GM's executive chief architect of software-defined vehicles, told reporters that the company wants to help the industry develop a standard software foundation that makes the back-end work of building and connecting applications faster and easier.
Automakers still will want to develop proprietary software that could sit atop a shared technology foundation, Ghenassia said. But an open-source approach to building links has advantages that will allow applications to communicate with one another, including reducing complexity and development time.
GM wants to adopt proven software development approaches from other industries, such as mobile or cloud-based, "rather than reinvent or try to apply the traditional automotive model that's been successful for hardware-driven features and try to apply that to software development," he said.
The first GM production vehicles using the uProtocol technology will arrive this year, Ghenassia said.
GM said it is moving forward with development of its Ultifi software platform, which encompasses uProtocol, in collaboration with Microsoft and Red Hat — both of which also participate in Eclipse's Software Defined Vehicle group. The automaker sees software and subscription services as a key future revenue model.
"We see this as exactly what the industry needs in order to really move forward," Mike Milinkovich, the Eclipse Foundation's executive director, said of GM's approach.
A lot of software needs to be built for automakers to achieve their vision of software-defined vehicles, Milinkovich said.
"A great amount of that technology is non-differentiating, as in it's necessary, but it's not what the customer is going to care about or feel when they're in the vehicle," he said.