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Red Hat touts safety in future Linux OS for cars

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Red Hat has announced plans to create a new Linux-based operating system for the automotive industry, with the enterprise-focused open source software company focusing on safety and continuous certification as the core selling point.

Red Hat, which was acquired by IBM for $34 billion in 2018, is already well known for its enterprise-grade Linux distribution, and this will serve as the basis for its new platform for road vehicles. For the initiative, Red Hat has partnered with Exida, a company that specializes in functional safety and product certification, to provide ongoing certifications spanning a range of applications, from “infotainment to driver operations,” according to a press release.

Specifically, Red Hat said that it’s working with Exida to achieve ISO 26262 certification, a global standard that governs the functional safety in road vehicles.

It’s worth noting that Linux is already used within the automotive industry. Tesla uses its own flavor of Linux in its vehicles, for starters, while The Linux Foundation-led Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) project counts founding members such as Ford, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan, Denso, and Toyota among its members. The ultimate goal of the AGL is to further develop its Unified Code Base (UCB) Linux distribution to give automakers a “70% to 80%” leg-up on their infotainment development projects. The 2018 Toyota Camry became the first production vehicle to use AGL in its infotainment system in the U.S.

Open sourced

Open source software is used in just about every application these days, as it saves companies from having to develop every component themselves internally and allows them to scale more quickly through the power of community-led software. However, for mission-critical software such as that found in automobiles, safety is of paramount importance, which is why Red Hat is setting out to bring a specialized Linux product to market specifically with road-faring vehicles in mind. This is consistent with what Red Hat has done elsewhere, building a multi-billion dollar business on serving enterprises with a hardened product with security and add-on services at its core.

For its potential customers — likely major automotive companies around the world — the prospect of using open source software (compared to proprietary software from a company such as Google) will be hugely appealing, as it ensures that they retain control of everything, including their data.

Red Hat hasn’t given any indication in terms of timescales for its new automotive Linux product, much of that will depend on how long the initial process takes to certify Red Hat Enterprise Linux components for vehicles. However, it did note that it could eventually expand the product’s scope beyond the highways and into robotics and manufacturing equipment.

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