After many years of hearing about Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) and all its potential, we are only now starting to see the origins of commercial interest in acquiring AGL related expertise from the independent contract market. While demand for AGL knowledge has been growing steadily across the partner community over the past few years, it appears that 2020 is on target to see a major increase in demand for AGL related skills, for commercial based automotive projects.
According to the Linux Foundation, their AGL collaborative open source project now has over 150 members, 11 of which are automakers, including Toyota and Subaru who are now deploying the AGL Platform in a number of their models. Although AGL has made major advances with their latest releases, Blackberry’s QNX Platform is by far the dominant leader with deployment figures in excess of 150 million vehicles worldwide. AGL has a lot of catching up to do if they are to compete successfully against the likes of QNX who just recently announced a new partnership with Amazon for their AWS IOT Services to run on the Blackberry QNX Platform. Although Blackberry are the clear market leader, there is no shortage of quality competition coming from challengers like WindRiver, Green Hills, Nvidia, Mentor, Google, Apple and AGL. It will be very interesting to see who will emerge as the leading competitors over the coming years.
AGL – Advantages and Disadvantages
One of the primary advantages of AGL is that it offers a 70 to 80% ready-made platform offering automakers and automotive suppliers the opportunity to customise the technology fast and easily, reducing time to market. Another major advantage is the lower R&D costs shared between its members which has helped AGL to rapidly develop its overall offering in recent years expanding from in vehicle infotainment (IVI) to include telematics, instrument cluster, head-up display, ADAS and autonomous driving. Many are touting the AGL Platform as having a distinct advantage with its open source code based solution, while others are more sceptical about the long term ability of an open source code based platform like AGL to keep pace with the strict safety and security standards required for ISO26262 and ASIL C&D Certification.
Whether or not AGL will emerge as a market leading platform in the coming years remains to be seen, however one sure thing is that the market is likely to look far different by 2025 than it does today. The global Automotive IOT Market is expected to surpass €100billion worldwide, by the mid-2020s, so the prize for the winner or winners will be staggering. It remains to be seen if any one platform can establish itself as the ‘de facto’ standard and what role the others would still play in the overall market. We are likely to see a lot more strategic partnerships and possibly some M&A movement in the coming years as the future landscape becomes clearer.
Access to R&D Expertise
Over the past 10 years we have seen vast increases in the demand for software and firmware engineers with expert knowledge in Autosar, POSIX, QNX, VxWorks, Integrity, Embedded Linux, Android and iOS. The demand for these skills has continuously outpaced supply causing additional headaches for R&D project managers in their ability to deliver new ground-breaking solutions for the automotive industry.
Now that AGL is finally gaining traction, will there be enough AGL expertise available to meet demand? For the moment at least, the increasing demand is starting from a very small base. However, as demand continues to increase during 2020, it is very likely that AGL members will begin to experience similar difficulties in finding sufficient AGL knowledge to meet the demands of all their new projects. There is also a distinct possibility that some of the competitors mentioned above, who are better known for their beloved apps suites, may be satisfied with running these applications on top of a QNX or AGL platform. This would help ease the pressure on specific QNX or AGL skills and allow the overall market to grow at a much faster rate.
Because Embedded Linux has grown so much as over the past 5 years, AGL is likely to benefit from a rapidly expanding pool of engineers with core Embedded Linux skills. Engineers with a solid background in Embedded Linux should be able to adapt to certain layers of the AGL Platform without too much difficulty. At the lower level, companies may be looking for additional skills including ARM, CPU, GPU, DSP, HW Acceleration, Hypervisor, Partitioning, Containers, Virtualisation, Embedded Kernel etc. Others may be looking for engineers with experience of Yocto, OpenEmbedded, Linux / Kernel Drivers, CAN, SPI, I2C, UART, WiFi, LTE etc. Any combination of these skills in conjunction with solid Embedded Linux skills is likely to be very attractive to companies developing products and solutions based on the AGL Platform. Once there, engineers will have the opportunity to work with more specific automotive technologies and standards like IVI Apps, Security, Safety, ISO26262, ASIL A-D, Autosar etc.
It is very difficult to predict what the market will look like in 5 years’ time, however there appears to be a growing consensus that the core platform market is likely to be dominated by a handful of main players. The likelihood is that others will opt for providing higher level infotainment apps and cloud based services sitting on top of these core platforms. As long as security concepts like hypervisor, partitioning, containers, virtual execution environments etc., continue to evolve and offer isolated protection for the mission and safety critical systems, it is very likely that there will be enough room for all the major players within the entire connected car ecosystem. This would be great news for consumers as the market is likely to remain highly competitive for a long time to come. This would be great news also for R&D Managers as the breath of skills and experience required to deliver all the potential innovation will be spread across a wider skill base. Then it would not be dominated by a handful of specialist skills with restricted supply, resulting in slower development for the entire industry.
Aleksandra Wisna is Team Manager & Consultant – Automotive & IOT at CIS Electronics Engineering. She is a Law Graduate from Poland who joined CIS Electronics Engineering in 2017 after returning from Dubai. After building a highly successful portfolio of embedded software engineers working on assignments across Europe, Aleksandra is now responsible for developing and leading a new team of expert low level embedded systems specialists with a particular focus on Automotive & IOT Technologies and Security.