MOST in the market
As mentioned before, it is absolutely critical for any new technology to cross the chasm between being a niche technology and becoming a widely accepted standard. Several factors need to align in order to make it happen, both from the technical and commercial sides.
Looking at semiconductors for the automotive industry, the difference between the semiconductor world and the automotive industry is quite significant: e.g. the definition of 'reasonable volumes' required for state-of-art silicon solutions in terms of performance, quality and price, is quite different between the semiconductor and the automotive world. The same applies for product life cycles, particularly in the area of fast moving technologies like infotainment and Driver Assist.
To overcome this hurdle, repeated attempts have been made to import technologies from the consumer space into the car and thus gain the respective scaling effects in terms of volume and price, most recent examples being USB and Ethernet technology. However, at second glance, it becomes very obvious that this does not work well.
Technologies to be used in the car need to be optimized for the car, with respect to either the environment (temperature, EMC, other physical parameters such as cable length or number of interconnects) or the application. In the case of infotainment/consumer networking, there has been no major cross brand standard accepted and implemented by the major players of the consumer space, although repeated attempts have been made. And all the cellphone/smartphone industry could agree to harmonize is a common charger.
The conclusion is that the automotive requirements, particularly in the networking area as a part of the 'DNA' of the car require automotive specific developments. But, once a technology has been developed and/or optimized for the car, adding all the specific functions and features required for in-vehicle use, nobody in the consumer industry will want to pay for these things anymore because it is not needed in the consumer world. All in all, it leads to optimized solutions for the car, such as CAN, FlexRay and MOST.
In that context, single source supply situations also need to be seen in a different light.
MOST has been in the market since 2001, having crossed the chasm with implementation in approximately 12 percent of all passenger vehicles. In 2007, SMSC and Harman announced the opening of the MOST Link Layer for MOST25 including a clear roadmap for MOST150.
Perhaps not surprisingly, no company has licensed the technology for MOST25 so far. The reasons are pretty obvious: In contrast to CAN, where several hundred million nodes are sold each year, the overall market size is just too low.
For MOST50 and MOST150 however, the picture looks quite different, even if we consider infotainment applications only, not looking at Driver Assist for a moment.
MOST150 has been adopted by Volkswagen/Audi, Daimler and some more car manufacturers already. The volume curve will start to rise more steeply from 2013/14 onwards, when the roll-outs to high volume models will start. At the same time, MOST50, which is very well suited for the mass market (as Toyota/Lexus have proven) and has already found more adopters in the 'fast follower' community mentioned above, will follow a similar pattern.
This will lead to quick cost reductions, which makes it very attractive for non-infotainment application areas, i.e. Driver Assist, to participate in the high volume effect from MOST in the infotainment area. That said, it can be expected that MOST interfaces implementations by other semiconductor companies will now make technical and commercial sense, in contrast to MOST25.
For CAN and MOST, it has taken more than 10 years to reach such a point. Any new technology will basically have to follow the same pattern. In times with even greater cost pressure, it is obvious that the pre-investment, which has already been made for MOST for over a decade, will have to be made for other technologies, being new to the car. Crossing the chasm means offering superior technology at low price for low volume over several years, compared to the existing ones.
MOST has already crossed it – with a clear future roadmap, technology- and cost wise.
Against the background of recent announcements regarding Ethernet as the infotainment networking technology of choice, the author of this article added the following statement:
MOST is here to stay and grow. Automotive IP-based data transmission over MOST now supplements infotainment which is about to saturate in terms of new and useful functions and features. Prepared for rollout in early 2012, MOST150 provides an automotive-ready physical layer for IP/Ethernet protocols in addition to transporting high Quality of Service (QoS) audio and video within the car. This makes MOST the ideal network backbone for a broad variety of IP-based applications such as supporting apps on connected services and Internet access in general. MOST is from this perspective comparable to an IEEE802.x network while on top providing high speed, real time, synchronous A/V streaming.
With MOST having already crossed the chasm from a niche technology to mass market the overall system costs including research and design, components, cabling, software stacks, etc. are being reduced significantly. The volume curve will start to rise even more steeply from 2013/14 onwards, when the roll-outs to high volume models will start. This will lead to further cost reductions, which makes MOST very attractive also for non-infotainment application areas such as driver assist to participate in the high volume effect from MOST in the infotainment area.
About the author:
Harald Schoepp is Vice President Marketing of the Automotive Information Systems division at SMSC. He is founding member of the MOST Cooperation and representative of SMSC in the steering committee.
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This article originally appeared on EE Times Europe.