These days, everyone expects their vehicle to not only drive well, but connect to the internet. After the Model S introduced an expansive touchscreen computer display, other manufacturers (after automotive-grade parts became available) ended up following suit. But, cars are mostly for driving, so what’s on the other end of that internet connection is usually more important. Your music, your navigation information, charging stations, trip planning, and everything else comes in over the air.
But, sometimes it’s YOU that’s on the other end of that connection. When your car is parked and you need to check on it, pre-condition the interior, or tell it to download a software update, you need to be able to do it from your phone or computer (or watch, or toaster). So, a good automotive experience now is about a lot more than just having decent software inside the car. Manufacturers must have good software and the ability to work with others to give you full control over the experience.
Sadly, I’ve found GM’s software to be pretty sub-par in my Bolt EUV. The on-screen software is just about worthless, and the only thing that makes it tolerable is Android Auto. The music, navigation, and everything else are just awful compared to what I can do with Android Auto. Worse, I’ve found that the myChevrolet mobile app is about as bad. It’s hard to get into, doesn’t work quickly, and sometimes just doesn’t work. Trip planning, either on the app or on the car’s screen, can get you stranded, too.
With announced plans to stop supporting Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, GM had better know that screwing up the software on the upcoming Ultium vehicles would be a disaster. But, a couple of months ago, GM gave autoevolution a clue about why the company is choosing to avoid phone projection in future vehicles. The issue? Phones’ inability to integrate more deeply with the vehicle, and consider more advanced and detailed data.
In a recent press release, we learn that GM is working on expanding access to secure vehicle data for not only Ultium cars, but for other automakers aiming to do the same. The company is offering a vehicle services definition called “uServices” to the automotive software developer community. uServices seeks to establish standardized software interfaces for secure access to vehicle systems within an OEM’s vehicle ecosystem. This uniform interface and its associated programming model facilitate the efficient development of distributed software necessary for Software Defined Vehicles (SDVs).
GM is sharing this definition with the wider developer community by joining the Connected Vehicle Systems Alliance (COVESA), a worldwide alliance driven by its members. COVESA is dedicated to developing open standards and cutting-edge technologies that expedite innovation for connected vehicle systems.
“General Motors intends to play a leading role in unifying a global community of creative developers while reducing the time it takes for the industry, from automotive manufacturers to suppliers, to develop and integrate these features,” said Frank Ghenassia, executive chief architect of Software Defined Vehicles at General Motors. “By sharing existing technologies now in production, GM hopes to accelerate the development of an ecosystem that we can leverage to integrate third-party software at reduced engineering cost. This, in turn, can help lower the cost for customers and reduce time to market while opening the door for customers to gain access to more applications.”
This isn’t GM’s first move to enhance vehicle data sharing. In April, the company announcement that it would be sharing uProtocol with the Eclipse Foundation. This standard has the potential to connect automotive applications and services beyond just GM products or vehicles. It aims to create efficiency not only across vehicles, but also across phones and other devices communicating with vehicles. So, future apps by all automakers could gain functionality and security from this effort.
Reading the release did leave me wondering what the differences are between uProtocol and uServices, though. While uProtocol provides a foundation for efficient development, uServices establishes standards for interfacing with vehicle features and enables a unified connected vehicle ecosystem. By introducing these technologies with other organizations, GM’s hoping to not only get others’ help, but contribute expertise to the effort.
“COVESA is very pleased to have GM as another global OEM actively contributing to our open-source community,” said Steve Crumb, executive director at COVESA. “uServices is a great addition to the growing set of open-source solutions hosted by COVESA and made openly available for enhancement and adoption among a growing number of automotive stakeholders.”
Why This Matters
The fact is that in today’s development world, nobody can be an island anymore. When every company is trying to invent their own version of the wheel, everyone’s efforts turn out better. Obviously, every company is still trying to get an edge on the competition, but they all realize that on things nobody can really out-innovate the others on, it makes sense to avoid duplication of effort and worse results.
If the company and others it’s working with can outperform Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, the end result could be a lot better than what I’m doing in my Bolt EUV today. It’s also possible that GM and its cooperating companies could eventually do a better job than Tesla at software. I know even raising that possibility probably sounds like heresy to some readers, but it’s important to realize that Tesla started with Ubuntu (a flavor of Linux), and didn’t invent everything from scratch. Engaging in more cooperation and using open source software was a good way to achieve better results, and that’s the general direction GM is headed in here.
But, one thing I really hope to see is at least some improvements for my Bolt. GM will still need to have branded Android and Apple apps so that people can connect to their vehicles and do everything we do today. I don’t think GM will fold the current sucky app into a myBolt app, so I’ll probably get the new app that works with Ultium vehicles, even if I don’t get all of the functionality a new Equinox EV or Silverado EV gets. Almost anything would be better than what I’m working with today, though!
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