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GM's new software hub will update your next EV like a smartphone

·Senior Editor
·3-min read

Compared to what we were driving just a decade ago, today's connected cars and trucks are practically computers on wheels. From content streaming infotainment systems to the background processes that interpret sensor data and power the advanced driver assist features, software has become a fundamental component in modern vehicles. To better manage those countless lines of code, GM announced on Wednesday that it has developed an end-to-end software platform, dubbed Ulfiti (rhymes with "multiply").

GM's latest vehicles already enjoy features like OTA software updates and on-board internet connectivity thanks to the company's Vehicle Intelligence Platform (VIP). the Linux-based Ulfiti is designed to sit on top of that existing architecture and serve as a central hub for select software systems, separating them from the vehicle's core operations. 

"In all of the embedded controllers, we refactored them and extracted the software from the hardware out of them, making them available to our SOA layer," Scott Miller, Vice President of Software Defined Vehicle. at General Motors, said during a recent teleconference. "Basically we're abstracting them and making them available for a powerful hub for all the vehicle's systems."

"Then we're adding this service oriented layer on our high performance computing that we have in the vehicle for infotainment and safety," he continued. "And we're going to organize those abstractions as services."

This will enable GM to more quickly develop and deploy updates, new features and apps to customers. In essence, Ultifi will serve a similar function as Android does on smartphones — an API layer sitting between the underlying hardware and the end user. GM did note that Ultifi will run in conjunction with existing automotive OSes, such as Android Automotive, which GM announced in 2019 it would begin supporting. 

"Android Automotive is a certain subset of functionality in the car," Darryl Harrison, GM's Director of Global Product Development, explained. "Ultifi is more of an umbrella overall strategy. Some vehicles will have Android Automotive and some will have other infotainment apps and services."

In essence, GM wants to treat your vehicle like a rolling smartphone, offering users continuous OTA updates, cloud-based personalization options that drivers can transfer between GM vehicles, and smart home connectivity. The company is also considering pushing out various safety and comfort upgrades through via OTA, such as using the vehicle's onboard cameras to automatically engage the child locks when they detect children in the back seat or remotely closing the vehicle's sunroof if you parked outdoors and the weather forecast calls for rain.  

GM is also considering using Ultifi to offer subscription services to users, such as on-demand Supercruise that drivers can enable on long road trips but cancel once they reach their destination. Ulfiti could also allow for improved V2V (vehicle to vehicle) and V2X (vehicle to everything) applications including near-real time traffic and road hazard updates. Expect to see Ulfiti in select GM vehicles — both internal combustion and EV — starting in 2023.            

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