Toyota Motors and its Linux Journey

This is a community submission from It’s FOSS reader Malcolm Dean.

I spoke with Brian R Lyons of TMNA Toyota Motor Corp North America about the implementation of Linux in Toyota and Lexus infotainment systems. I came to find out there is an Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) being used by several autmobile manufacturers.

I put together a short article comprising of my discussion with Brian about Toyota and its tryst with Linux. I hope that Linux enthusiasts will like this quick little chat.

All Toyota vehicles and Lexus vehicles are going to use Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) majorly for the infotainment system. This is instrumental in Toyota Motor Corp because as per Mr. Lyons “As a technology leader, Toyota realized that adopting open source development methodology is the best way to keep up with the rapid pace of new technologies”.

Toyota among other automotive companies thought, going with a Linux based operating system might be cheaper and quicker when it comes to updates, and upgrades compared to using proprietary software.

Wow! Finally Linux in a vehicle. I use Linux every day on my desktop; what a great way to expand the use of this awesome software to a completely different industry.

I was curious when Toyota decided to use the Automotive Grade Linux (AGL). According to Mr. Lyons, it goes back to 2011.

“Toyota has been an active member and contributor to AGL since its launch more than five years ago, collaborating with other OEMs, Tier 1s and suppliers to develop a robust, Linux-based platform with increased security and capabilities”

Toyota Infotainment

In 2011, Toyota joined the Linux Foundation and started discussions about IVI (In-Vehicle Infotainment) software with other car OEMs and software companies. As a result, in 2012, Automotive Grade Linux working group was formed in the Linux Foundation.

What Toyota did at first in AGL group was to take “code first” approach as normal as in the open source domains, and then start the conversation about the initial direction by specifying requirement specifications which had been discussed among car OEMs, IVI Tier-1 companies, software companies, and so on.

Toyota had already realized that sharing the software code among Tier1 companies was going to essential at the time when it joined the Linux Foundation. This was because the cost of maintaining such a huge software was very costly and was no longer differentiation by Tier1 companies. Toyota and its Tier1 supplier companies wanted to spend more resources n new functions and new user experiences rather than maintaining conventional code all by themselves.

This is a huge thing as automotive companies have gone in together to further their cooperation. Many companies have adopted this after finding proprietary software to be expensive.

Today, AGL is used for all Toyota and Lexus vehicles and is used in all markets where vehicles are sold.

As someone who has sold cars for Lexus, I think this is a huge step forward. I and other sales associates had many customers who would come back to speak with a technology specialist to learn about the full capabilities of their infotainment system.

I see this as a huge step forward for the Linux community, and users. The operating system we use on a daily basis is being put to use right in front of us albeit in a modified form but is there none-the-less.

Where does this lead? Hopefully a better user-friendly and less glitchy experience for consumers.

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  • Many OEMs use Linux and definitely at the development stage. I’ve been covering EVs and AVs for over a decade and the amount of carmakers that have Linux codes is staggering. The sticking point is that most companies don’t understand open source licensing and eventually shy away from it. They turn to QNX and other hybrids.

    I just got back from CES Las Vegas and saw a group of open source advocate consulting with OEMs to help them maneuver the legalities of using FOSS. LA Automobility had plenty of section on security and of course, FOSS was part of the discussion.

    My favorite case, so far, is that of Byton. These guys are serious open source advocate and plan on opening everything as soon as possible. I interviewed Abe Chen many times and had terrific conversations with him. I’d be happy to write here about that if you are open to it Abhishek.

    As users and potential car buyers, we have to ask carmakers, motorcycle and everything mobility makers to embrace open source, not necessarily because it’s cheaper but safer and quicker to respond than closed source.

    Check out startups, they do a great job embracing open source because they hire deep within the FOSS trenches. Abe won the CES hackathon two years in a row, hands tied in a trunk of a car. Congrats to Toyota and other OEMs for stepping forward. Now let it be shown and reflected with device stability and affordability passed down the line.