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GM has created its own open-source software protocol and wants its competitors to use it

General Motors announced the creation of its own open-source software protocol as a “starting point” for other automakers and developers to create better software experiences for its customers. The move comes as the auto industry scrambles to hire more software developers and programmers to help produce cars that are essentially computers on wheels.

GM’s “uProtocol” is part of the automaker’s plan to “accelerate software development by streamlining the creation of software that is distributed across multiple devices in vehicles, as well as the cloud and mobile,” the company said in a release.

More importantly, GM says it sees this as an opportunity to work on software projects across the industry that can benefit all customers, not just those who own Cadillac or Chevy vehicles. To this end, the company also joins the Eclipse Foundationa Brussels-based organization that describes itself as “the world’s largest open source software foundation.”

GM’s uProtocol is part of the automaker’s plan to accelerate software development

GM launched its own open-source protocol in hopes that “the rest of the industry will also adopt a similar mindset to enable more software and enable more interoperability across the industry,” said Frank Ghenassia, executive chief architect of software-defined vehicles at General Motors, in a briefing with reporters. “So that we as an industry can be generally productive in developing software that our customers can benefit from.”

The overall effort is intended to accelerate the development of software-defined vehicles. The auto industry has been recruiting massively in recent years, bringing in thousands of software developers in hopes of bringing more technical sophistication to their fleets. The recent layoffs in Silicon Valley have provided those companies with even more opportunities to build their ranks of programmers and tech-savvy workers.

The result is the release of more cars with constantly updated software features. Tesla was the first company to bring over-the-air software updates to the mainstream. Now the rest of the industry is trying to catch up by introducing their own upgradable vehicles.

GM’s main effort is Ultifi, a software platform that will appear in cars later this year. The company says its end-to-end software platform will enable OTA updates, in-car subscription services and “new capabilities to increase customer loyalty.”

The overall effort is intended to accelerate the development of software-defined vehicles

The automaker has said Ultifi can power everything from weather apps to potentially controversial features, such as using in-car cameras for facial recognition or detecting children to automatically activate the car’s child locks. The Linux-based system will also be available to third-party developers who may want to create apps and other features for GM customers.

GM’s uProtocol will serve as a starting point for those third-party developers, the company says. Like an API, the open-source protocol is “the communication protocol that allows software components to talk and interact with each other and exchange information,” Ghenassia said. “The protocol itself does not specify what the structure of the messages is, what is the content of the information exchanged between the software components.”

In other words, GM is trying to standardize communication protocols, not the content being passed back and forth, most of which should be considered proprietary and not something GM necessarily wants its competitors to access. After all, there is only so much sharing that can be allowed in a free market capitalist system.

“We are leaving the subject of standardization on data structures and what information is exchanged for another contribution,” said Ghenassia. “Perhaps in a different context.”

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