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Will Linux make the new Toyota Camry a better car?

When the 2018 Camry comes out later this year, its navigation and other electronics will run on the Automotive Grade Linux operating system.

Toyota Entune 3.0 Dynamic Navigation
Toyota showed off its Entune 3.0 infotainment system, based on Automotive Grade Linux, earlier this year.

When the 2018 Toyota Camry comes out later this year, it will come with a new generation infotainment system in the dashboard that Toyota calls Entune 3.0. Behind the scenes, this new system relies on Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), an open-source operating system hosted by The Linux Foundation.

The Camry marks the first production win for AGL, and the Linux proponents behind it couldn't have asked for a more popular car to host its debut. Toyota sold an average of 396,000 Camrys in the US every year over the past decade.

Automotive infotainment systems, which usually combine navigation, digital audio, hands-free phone calling and third-party apps, have been developed by automakers and equipment suppliers alike, leading to fragmentation and disparate interfaces unique to each brand of vehicle. AGL attempts to make a unified dashboard operating system, freeing automotive software engineers from individual platform development.

The current-generation Entune system in Toyota vehicles works reasonably well, providing in-dash navigation, the ability to play music from connected smartphones and Toyota's own app integration system, which lets drivers search Yelp or perform more general online searches to find destinations. The adoption of AGL could give Toyota a more future-proof system, with software that can be updated as cars age.

Toyota, which had been a member of the AGL group, chose to use it as the basis for Entune 3.0, its newest in-dash infotainment system. The new Entune will use what Toyota calls App Suite Connect for app integration, although there is no word yet as to which apps it will support. Lower-trim Camrys will integrate the Scout app for navigation, using the driver's smartphone. Higher-trim cars will come with a new onboard navigation system with over-the-air map updates. Toyota also notes the Camry includes a Wi-Fi hotspot supported by a 4G/LTE data connection.

Although AGL can support Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Toyota would not say if those smartphone integration features will be available in the new Camry. The reliance on the Scout app for navigation suggests not.

AGL in the Camry does not mark the first time a UNIX-type operating system has been used in a production car. QNX, owned by BlackBerry, is a UNIX variant used in many cars for infotainment functions, and is the basis for Ford's Sync 3 system, which includes navigation, digital audio and app support.

Toyota plans to spread Entune 3.0 throughout its entire lineup, good news for AGL adoption, as it updates individual models. We will find out more about how Entune 3.0 works when Toyota begins press drives of the new Camry next month.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that QNX is not based on Linux, but on UNIX.

Toyota released this image of the 2018 Camry's audio source screen, showing the new Entune 3.0 interface, earlier this year.