GM Partners with Red Hat to Safely Keep Cars Up to Date and Making Money

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By James Hodgson | 2Q 2022 | IN-6574

Automakers must develop strategies to extract revenue from the growing installed base of connected cars. GM, a pioneer in the connected car market, is partnering with Red Hat to deliver the best blend of open-source and functional safety, optimizing exposure to third-party developers and time-to-market, while maintaining connected car security.

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Powering Updates to GM's Ultifi Software-Defined Car Platform


In late 2021, GM announced Ultifi, a software-defined car platform set to be rolled out from 2023, building on the previously announced Vehicle Intelligence Platform (VIP), a novel hardware platform providing the necessary compute headroom and bandwidth to enable software maintenance and updates in multiple vehicle domains. Ultifi will form a basis for GM to accelerate the development and delivery of new software-defined services and experiences in its vehicles, providing its consumers with a dynamic vehicle ownership experience, which can be personalized through the selection of different apps and services, reflecting the typical smartphone model.

In May 2022, GM elaborated further on its Utilifi platform and software-defined car strategy, announcing a partnership with Red Hat to incorporate the Red Hat In-Vehicle Operating System, marrying proven experience in enterprise with functional safety certification to enable faster software development and deployment within GM, as well as enabling safe engagement between GM and third-party software developers.

Installed Base-Driven Costs Demand Installed Base-Driven Revenue


A wide range of factors are driving automakers to develop strategies that combine software-defined experiences and services with a platform to dynamically update these experiences and services throughout the vehicle lifecycle.

First, the introduction of new, digitally-native domains, such as Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems (ADAS) and infotainment, as well as the wider adoption of software to optimize the performance of legacy domains, such as body control and powertrain, has increased the share of core vehicle functions defined by software and, by extension, the number of core vehicle functions that can be compromised by software bugs and vulnerabilities. For most modern vehicles, a business case can be made for the rollout of Over-the-Air (OTA) connections simply to avoid costly recalls driven by errors that exist purely in the software domain.

Second, the ability to not only maintain existing functions, but also add new functions presents automakers with the opportunity to build a new revenue stream proportional to the size of their installed-base of OTA-enabled connected cars—an approach pioneered by automotive industry disruptor, Tesla. On the back of 2 years of disrupted new vehicle sales, and with no expectation of a return to normal vehicle sales levels in 2022, automakers are increasingly motivated to build up a secondary revenue stream that is less volatile than the fluctuating new vehicle sales market.

Finally, it is important to note that software-defined cars will increase both an automaker’s liabilities and revenue opportunities. The trends of automation, electrification, and cooperative mobility will continue to increase the volume and criticality of software in vehicles—software that must be maintained, expanding the automakers exposure to connected car maintenance costs each time one of their models ships. This is now being reflected in strict legislation, such as the European Union (EU) General Safety Regulation (GSR), which includes an Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) requirement for new models from mid-2022 and all vehicles shipping in Europe from mid-2024. Achieving a passing score for this ISA system mandates the adoption of digital maps, which must be updated for 14 years after the vehicle has shipped. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) anticipate that this will incur a cost of between US$7 and US$8 per vehicle lifetime. At least 10 million cars are shipped in the EU-27 every year.

ISA is only one system, but it nonetheless paints the future of the connected, software-defined car. The long lifecycle of each generation, and the multi-year lifecycle of each vehicle shipped inevitably means that the software-defined car trend will drive up OEM costs.

It is, therefore, essential that OEMs, which face increasing costs in proportion to their connected car installed base, also develop a strategy that extracts revenue in proportion to the connected car installed base.

Openness versus Security


Developing a strategy to develop and deliver revenue-generating software updates requires automakers to adopt not only new enabling technologies, but more fundamentally, a new philosophy toward novel automotive services and experiences. The typical automotive attitude toward new services and software-defined features has been to coincide the introduction of these services and features with the launch of a new model, with these services/features leveraged as unique selling points to drive sales of the new models compared to the previous generation and competitive options. OEMs must break with this legacy attitude to deliver on their installed base monetization ambitions, shipping vehicles with the compute headroom and high-bandwidth networking to accommodate a road map of updates that will be made available to the consumer over the course of the car’s multi-year lifecycle.

One approach to developing this road map of software updates is to engage with a network of third-party developers. Historically, this has proven difficult, due to reservations on the sides of both automakers and third-party developers. From a developer perspective, there has been little to incentivize widespread engagement with the automotive industry, particularly given the limited size of the connected car installed base (relative to other software-defined verticals) and the fragmentation in compute platforms and software architectures, not only between automakers, but also within individual automakers, which often operate multiple different hardware platforms simultaneously. Meanwhile, automotive OEMs are reluctant to engage with third parties due to the potential impact on the security and functional safety of their vehicles.

This push to widen engagement with third-party developers is a significant factor driving adoption of the Android Automotive OS (AAOS) in the infotainment domain, as automakers seek to modernize what has traditionally been a dated experience dominating the vehicle dashboard. However, Android’s influence is restricted to the infotainment domain, with hypervisors leveraged to isolate the Android-based infotainment domain from digital cockpit functions carrying a safety goal, and from the other vehicle domains.

The GM-Red Hat partnership represents an important step in improving engagement between automakers and third parties outside of the infotainment domain, with the Linux-based OS accelerating the time-to-market of features developed by third-party service suppliers, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 26262 qualification of the OS providing greater peace of mind for GM when engaging with external software developers.



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