As consumers depend on smartphones, tablets and laptops to run their daily lives, they expect these technologies to extend to their ‘home away from home’, namely their cars. In-vehicle electronics are likewise growing in number and complexity, keeping step with technological advancements and satisfying consumer expectations for a connected driving experience.
While in-car electronics can dramatically improve passenger safety and entertainment, these comforts can also result in a higher price tag for the consumer. To prevent the technologies from being cost-prohibitive, advancements in Ethernet connectivity and standards-based solutions are making these perks accessible to a broader range of people by driving lower price points in the industry. Proven IP-based Ethernet technology enables vehicle manufacturers to bridge the gap between function and entertainment within a single network by significantly reducing connectivity cost and cabling weight.
As consumers depend on smartphones, tablets and laptops to run their daily lives, they expect these technologies to extend to their ‘home away from home’, namely their cars.
Ethernet is not unfamiliar to automotive electronics, but until recently its use was restricted to onboard diagnostics (OBD) rather than passenger-facing applications. In a service setting, with no passengers present and the engine off, a standard Ethernet connection was suitable for technicians to use for testing and diagnostics. To make the shift from OBD applications to an in-vehicle network during operation, today’s Ethernet solutions must address stringent industry requirements such as electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), temperature tolerance and emissions immunity. At the same time, suppliers must ensure they provide an open architecture with system compatibility throughout the vehicle.
Vehicle bandwidth needs are expanding well beyond infotainment and navigation, in turn redefining vehicle motion and safety applications. An Ethernet-based 360-degree surround view parking system, for example, combines multiple digital sensors and cameras with low-light sensitivity and high definition image and video capture – a groundbreaking step in migrating vehicle motion management from a closed application to an open, scalable driver assistance network in which several systems can access and share essential information.
By combining cost-conscious Ethernet technology with high resolution imagery gathered from affordable CMOS image sensors, OEMs can extend sophisticated parking assistance systems to luxury and non-luxury vehicles alike. Standardised IP technology has the ability to drive audio and video packets for display and infotainment applications throughout the vehicle, manage seat controls, passive restraints and more. Ultimately, in-vehicle systems must be a differentiator for customers, not a road block. Buyers want new technologies and features, but at minimal cost.
Industry leaders are working to standardise on Ethernet platforms, gaining benefits in terms of cost, performance, ease of integration and availability.
Because of these new demands on automotive networking technologies, industry leaders are working to standardise on Ethernet platforms, gaining benefits in terms of cost, performance, ease of integration and availability. The wide range of in-vehicle applications – such as safety, infotainment and driver assistance – is reflected in a slate of rigorous performance standards in various stages of draft and approval.
In 2011, Broadcom, NXP, Freescale and Harman announced the formation of a special interest group (SIG) to drive wide-scale adoption of Ethernet-based automotive connectivity through single pair unshielded networks. Jointly developed with founding automotive members BMW and Hyundai Motor Company, the OPEN Alliance (One-Pair Ether-Net) SIG is addressing industry requirements for improving in-vehicle safety, comfort and infotainment.
Standardisation is essential as a major enabler for new and innovative in-vehicle applications, allowing OEMs to meet customer expectations and keep the bottom line in check. Widely deployed solutions such as Ethernet provide an inherent cost and ecosystem advantage, furthering the infrastructure for rugged industrial applications, and playing a key role in bringing the industry closer to the connected car of the future.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Timothy Lau is Senior Product Line Manager for Automotive Networking products for the Infrastructure & Networking Group (ING) at Broadcom Corporation. In this role, Lau specializes in network technologies for businesses, as well as mainstream consumer applications.
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