GM's Ultifi software program to let owners interact remotely with cars

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. on Wednesday revealed Ultifi, a new software program rolling out in 2023 that the automaker says will allow customers to personalize their vehicles and interact with them remotely. 

Ultifi builds on GM's electrical vehicle architecture called the Vehicle Intelligence Platform that enables over-the-air updates; it's one of the ways GM is trying to show it's both a tech and auto company. GM intends to use the Ultifi system as another revenue stream by connecting with third-party developers to use the platform for their applications.

General Motors Co. on Wednesday introduced Ultifi, a software platform designed to unlock new vehicle experiences and connect with customers' digital lives.

"The platform is designed to really unlock new experiences of the vehicle for the customers, to let them personalize their vehicles, upgrade content over the air, and just seamlessly connect their vehicles to their digital lives," said Scott Miller, GM vice president of software-defined vehicles, on a Wednesday call. "It's a big next step in our software strategy and how we seamlessly deliver software, defined features and services to our customers over time and for years to come."

Ultifi will be based on the Linux software platform to make it easier for third-party developers to have access.

The new software program will be enabled through hardware that's built into some next-generation products, including both internal combustion vehicles and electric vehicles. Customers will opt in to Ultifi. Some capabilities will be provided for free and others will come with additional costs. 

"Customers will have their choice: they can buy the car and just let it be as it is when they buy it, or with the agreement we will consistently do upgrades over time ... so we will add new functionality or make existing apps even better with new capabilities," Miller said. 

Ultifi uses cloud-based connectivity that could give customers more options for accessing and controlling their vehicles, GM said. For example, cameras could be used for facial recognition to start the vehicle.

The cloud connectivity, GM says, could potentially be used to connect vehicles to each other so they can send out alerts about hazards or other road conditions.

At a virtual Workday conference on Tuesday, CEO Mary Barra discussed GM's efforts to become known as an auto tech company, not just an auto company: "As we convey the strength we have from a design, engineering, manufacturing capability, and how we do that on time and with quality, and then couple that with the software platform and really a different business model in both the not so cyclical and better margins (aspects), we think General Motors is a tremendous growth story."

Twitter: @bykaleahall