PARK RIDGE, Ill. - Motorola Inc. announced this week that it is teaming with Volcano Communications Technologies to develop network architectures and software for future automobiles.
The two companies said their alliance will help the industry standardize its network architectures and build gateways among various vehicle networks. "We need to cooperate with software companies to create standard protocols for communicating between central controllers and actuators in the car," said Denis Griot, Motorola corporate vice president and general manager, Body Electronics and Occupant Safety Division.
The two companies plan to develop standardized distributed architectures that would work with "smart connectors" to help electric motors in automotive seats, doors, sunroofs and windshield wipers to work in a more autonomous fashion. The smart connectors would use semiconductors developed by Motorola and real-time communication systems created by Volcano (Gothenburg, Sweden). By incorporating on-board intelligence, the connectors could communicate with central controllers and eliminate the need for thick, point-to-point wiring bundles for motors.
Both companies would also work on gateways that would connect separate data networks for powertrain, multimedia and body electronics. Most automakers now use high-speed controller-area network buses for power-train electronics and low-speed CAN for body electronics. Many are also considering use of a fiber-optic bus, known as Most (Media Oriented Systems Transport), for multimedia applications such as video systems and cell phones. The gateways would help ensure that information could be passed between networks without compromising safety.
In the development of new gateways, Motorola engineers said they would use software design tools from Volcano. "The complexity of these gateways is pretty high," Griot said. "The gateway is something that needs to be simulated and optimized in software first." By simulating, engineers say they can lower the amount of memory and other system resources used by the gateway, Griot said.
The Motorola-Volcano alliance is part of an ongoing effort by automakers and automotive-electronics suppliers to develop their products against a single platform. So far, automakers have failed to agree on standards for most vehicle electronics. They now use a wide variety of bus architectures, ranging from simple CAN buses to copper-based IEEE 1394 and dozens of other, often proprietary, alternatives. As a result, car manufacturers must often re-engineer vendor products, which are not designed to any specific standard. In the process, they lose valuable time and fall behind the pace of innovation in the rest of the industry.
For vendors, the result of this lack of standardization can be even more painful. Many must rebuild their products to varying specifications called for by different automakers.
In an effort to change that, Motorola and Volcano Communications earlier this year teamed with Audi, BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Volvo and Volkswagen in the Local Interconnect Network (LIN) consortium. The LIN consortium aims to develop a standardized network architecture for simple on-off devices like car seats, door locks, sunroofs, rain sensors, HVAC flaps, cruise control, windshield wipers and a host of other simple applications.
Under the new alliance, Motorola and Volcano will continue to develop protocols so that actuators can communicate with central controllers in standardized ways. "Until now, the industry has had a tendency to subcontract this kind of work to first-tier suppliers," Griot said. "As a result, we were seeing a variety of ASIC products. There was no standard hardware architecture. But car manufacturers can't afford to do that anymore."