2018 Toyota Camry Will Use Linux-Based Infotainment System

While other automakers court Apple and Google, Toyota is taking a different path.

It seems like only a matter of time until major tech companies dominate automotive dashboards, just like they have with computers and smartphones. Apple and Google have established beachheads with CarPlay and Android Auto, and both Audi and Volvo plan to use Android as the operating system for future infotainment setups.

But Toyota is going in a different direction. The 2018 Camry will feature an infotainment system that uses Linux as its operating system. That’s right, the niche, open-source operating system your programmer friend loves to talk about will power infotainment functions in America’s bestselling sedan. 

The system will eventually be offered in other Toyota and Lexus models as well.

Toyota’s system is based on “Automotive Grade Linux,” a version developed by a number of different entities specifically for vehicular use. Known as AGL for short, its backers believe an open-source infotainment platform will allow developers to more easily create software for use by multiple automakers, reducing development costs and product launch times.

Developing a universal infotainment platform is something Toyota has already expressed interest in. It was the first external automaker to back Ford’s SmartDeviceLink, a platform for in-car apps. SmartDeviceLink first appeared in 2013, and was designed to give app developers unfettered access to vehicle systems. More recently, Ford and Toyota have pitched it as a universal template for in-car apps, and have convinced Mazda, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Suzuki, and Subaru to sign on.

AGL also gives Toyota a way to offer a large number of in-car apps without jumping on the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto bandwagon. Japan’s largest automaker is one of the last major holdouts when it comes to the two systems. 

CarPlay and Android Auto have proven popular because they use the same familiar interfaces users know from their smartphones. Toyota will have to work hard to prove that its Linux-based infotainment system is a better alternative. As automakers continue to focus heavily on smartphone integration, and as some cozy up to Google, this a bold move on Toyota’s part.