General Motors is rolling out a new software platform in vehicles starting in 2023 that executives say will usher in a sweeping set of capabilities including giving drivers access to subscription services and using over-the-air updates to offer new apps.
The software platform can be used to give owners greater access to all the functions of a vehicle right down to the sensors. For instance, a driver would be able to automatically set child locks if the car cameras detect children in the backseat. Ultifi will also give drivers access to subscription services, including Super Cruise, the company’s hands-free advanced driver assistance system.
“It’s a big next step in our software strategy,” Scott Miller, GM’s VP of software-defined vehicles said in a press briefing. “Today cars are enabled by software. With Ultifi, they’re going to be defined by it.”
The platform will be built on top of the company’s vehicle intelligence platform, or VIP, which is the underlying hardware architecture that provides greater data processing power. Ultifi will be integrated alongside Android Automotive, the OS embedded in some GM infotainment systems. (Android Automotive OS is separate from Android Auto, which is a secondary interface that lies on top of the operating system.) The difference between the two comes down to capability and availability: “Android Automotive is a certain subset of functionality in the car,” Miller explained. “Ultifi is more of an umbrella overall strategy.”
Like Android, Ultifi will be Linux-based, a widely used developer platform. Miller said GM chose Linux because “at some point we really want to open this up” to authorize third-party developers to launch in-car apps, Miller said.
Ultifi will start rolling out in 2023 and will be available exclusively to those vehicles and beyond, due to the computing demands of the system. Customers can either purchase the vehicle or purchase different access plans, like how consumers purchase different plans for their smartphone, Miller said. That means varying prices and varying plans, though GM didn’t go into any specifics. Nor did it disclose how much revenue it expects the new platform to generate.
This is just the latest move by major automakers to make new vehicles more connected than ever before. Both General Motors and Ford have discussed the revenue-generating opportunities in software and subscription services, and Ultifi is another step toward building out those businesses.
“We’re not transitioning away from vehicles,” Miller said. “We’re expanding our business. Opportunities to generate new lines of business to expand and leverage technology for other applications, isn’t in lieu of our core, it’s in addition to [it].”