After much hype and discussion, the age of the connected car is finally upon us. This leap forward in automotive innovation has been made possible by a number of factors coming together at the same time. Advances in components, connectivity, and standardization have brought us to a point where the reality of the connected car rests within touching distance.
But as we contemplate a slightly more distant future that goes even beyond the connected car towards the eventual widespread acceptance of autonomous driving, we must already begin thinking about what technological solutions we will have to deploy in order to make this a global reality. One of those technologies is sure to be the Open Alliance BroadR-Reach® (OABR) Automotive Ethernet standard -- which, for a number of reasons, is the key to unlocking the truly smart vehicles of the future.
Applications of the future will depend on high data rates that cannot possibly be supported by today's CAN, LIN, and FlexRay systems. Parking cameras, HD digital infotainment, ADAS sensors like Radar and eventually the "eyes and ears" for self-driving systems of the future will all be built on a high bandwidth Ethernet backbone.
While truly autonomous driving is several years away many car OEMs are already developing systems around Automotive Ethernet. For example, BMW's camera based driver assistance system is supported by Ethernet, which works in conjunction with more traditional networking architectures. This is likely to be the model for the next generation of cars employing Ethernet -- not directly replacing systems like CAN and LIN but used alongside for specific data intensive applications.
Breaking into the mainstream
Ensuring the cost effectiveness of Automotive Ethernet will enable more car OEMs to bring advanced applications to the average motorist. A significant portion of the cost of building a new car lies in the cabling. The gradual introduction of electronic functions like cruise control, ADAS, DAB radio, satellite navigation, V2X, etc., within the vehicle mean that the amount of copper cabling in cars has risen steadily, along with the associated cost and weight.
The new OABR Automotive Ethernet standard will enables OEMs to minimize the additional cabling in the car. Unlike home Ethernet services which consist of four wires, only two are required for OABR Ethernet in the car. This means that it is possible to drastically reduce the weight of the car. All of which means that advanced infotainment and data intensive safety features like radar will become more affordable in economy cars as well as in top end Audis or BMWs.
NXP is a founding member of the Open Alliance, an organization dedicated to smoothing the way for Ethernet adoption in the auto industry. Most auto manufacturers and many Tier-1 and Tier-2 suppliers are now on-board, so though we may not know yet exactly what applications will one day be developed for the car, one thing is for sure -- many of them will be built on the scalable future proof architecture of OABR Ethernet.