GM Makes Key Software Piece Available; Will Industry Adopt?

The automaker is going open source with two years of development around a software communication protocol in an effort to speed the transition to the software-defined vehicle. If the industry adopts the software in a big way, it will make it easier for developers to create new applications car buyers may embrace.

David Zoia, Senior Director-Content

April 27, 2023

2 Min Read
SDV promo art Getty
Making uProtocol open source seen as speeding transition to the software-defined vehicle.

General Motors is contributing some of its software-development work to an open-source community in an effort to standardize the way systems communicate with each other onboard future vehicles and through the cloud and via mobile devices.

In joining the Eclipse Foundation, a global community of individuals and organizations promoting open-source software collaboration and innovation, GM is making public some two years of development around what it calls uProtocol, a coding language that would allow a variety of software to interact seamlessly.

The communications protocol would work with any operating systems, whether based on Android, Linux or QNX, for example, and enable data to be exchanged and accessed by a variety of applications onboard a vehicle.

In announcing the move, Frank Ghenassia, executive chief architect for the software-defined vehicle at GM, says that if other automakers and suppliers adopt uProtocol rather than spend time developing similar software in-house, it will speed the industry’s transition to the SDV and eliminate costly redundancy. It also would make it easier for applications developers to create new software-driven features car buyers may embrace.

If every automaker develops its own software similar to uProtocol, they won’t be “building value-added software for their customers,” Ghenassia says. “So, we’re joining Eclipse and contributing what we’ve done.”

Both Ghenassia and Eclipse Foundation Executive Director Mike Milinkovich say GM’s move to offer the software to others has been met enthusiastically following its introduction at a recent Eclipse Foundation event in Lisbon, Portugal, but Ghenassia admits the jury is still out on how much and in what areas individual automakers will be willing to employ open-source software.

To now, he says, automakers have relied on more traditional product-development methods geared to hardware. “We would rather adopt proven software-development methods,” he says, including relying on open-source software.

But “not all software can be open-source,” he adds, noting automakers will want to differentiate where it makes sense, in order to better appeal to their customer base. “Each company needs to decide for itself. GM does endorse open-source as a way to improve productivity – and it is one approach we’ll be leveraging.”

Milinkovich says GM’s move to embrace open-source software is “becoming the shared vision across the industry.

“It’s early days,” he says of whether automakers and suppliers will be willing to adopt uProtocol, but soon developers will be able to “grab the code and see what’s there.”

UProtocol will get its first application on GM cars later this year, Ghenassia says, pointing out that means it soon will be field tested, providing a dose of quality assurance to those considering its use.

“We’ve had interest (from other companies),” the GM executive adds. “But it’s a journey. We will see if the industry will adopt community development.”

As a member of the Eclipse Foundation, GM will participate in its SDV Working Group. Collaborators on GM’s Ultifi software platform, including Microsoft and Red Hat, as well as multiple other automakers, participate in the group.

About the Author(s)

David Zoia

Senior Director-Content, WardsAuto

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