Automotive supplier Continental AG is a new member of the OPEN Alliance SIG (One Pair Ether-Net Alliance Special Interest Group). The group is dedicated to spreading the use of Ethernet networks as the standard solution for in-vehicle applications. Continental's move is not much of a surprise: The company has highlighted its commitment to Ethernet already at earlier opportunities.
"We regard Ethernet as the ideal solution for system integration in vehicle electronics. In the OPEN Alliance SIG, we can define standards across the industry, and thus minimize development costs. This means we are on the right road for quickly going into production with Ethernet," said Helmut Matschi, Member of Continentals executive board and head of the interior division, regarding the company's joining the OPEN Alliance.
Spurred on by the success and performance of Ethernet networking in other areas of industry, Continental said it started investigating opportunities to use Ethernet in the automotive environment already in 2007. In line with this, fundamental research regarding the use of Ethernet and Internet Protocol (IP) in cars was conducted as part of the SEIS (Safety in Embedded IP-based Systems) project sponsored by the German federal research ministry. In the combination of IP and Ethernet, the individual network nodes exchange data at speeds of 100 Mbit per second in the current technical setup.
In addition to the data transfer rate, the particular Ethernet derivative used in the OPEN Alliance impressed the Continental technologists with its uncomplicated and cost-effective cabling. Nothing more than a two-wire, drilled – and unshielded! – copper cable connects the network nodes.
The opportunities for rapid data transfer and the advantages for cable weight and installation compared to the MOST data bus (Media Oriented Systems Transport, a standard solution for transmitting multimedia data) make Ethernet ideal for use in the field of infotainment in combination with IP used in multimedia applications. However, Continental is also working on using Ethernet in all vehicle domains, and even addressing areas that used to be networked using FlexRay and/or CAN (Controller Area Network). Continental expects to start series production of the first Ethernet-capable control units in the Interior and Chassis & Safety vehicle domains in 2015. By 2020, the company will be able to present initial pre-development projects in all vehicle domains.
Continental's Ethernet test setup includes an intelligent antenna and several Ethernet switches and nodes.
Continental presented the opportunities for Ethernet in vehicles at the Consumer Electronics Show 2012 in Las Vegas with a test setup of a vehicle data network. The central node in the setup is formed by an Ethernet switch in combination with a gateway. As a communication tool, it administers the network's data transfer.
Several applications make the power and diversity of an Ethernet network clear. Not only of interest for electric vehicles: When the individual Ethernet components are not being used, they can be switched off to save energy. Using modules to detect electrical activity (energy detect modules), the gateway controls system energy distribution and activates or deactivates other nodes in the network if they are not required. This "partial network operation" feature helps to save electrical energy.
Conventional network technologies such as LIN (Local Interconnected Network) and FlexRay are connected via the central gateway in combination with Ethernet, or the signals from a remote control key are received via the CAN bus. The high bandwidth of Ethernet is illustrated through the use of driver assistance cameras. The all-round control unit (topview) sends the video signal of a complete all-round view to the infotainment system via the Ethernet network in real time. The image is compiled using the signals received from several cameras. The power is supplied via the Ethernet cable (Power over Ethernet).
"When it comes to networking data in cars, we believe that Ethernet is the technology of the future. In this way, we can further harmonize the car with the world of consumer electronics in a safe manner. After all, Ethernet offers a high-class, scalable infrastructure in the vehicle," said Matschi.
Other members of the OPEN Alliance are Broadcom, Freescale, NXP and infotainment equipment provider Harman.
This article originally appeared on EE Times Europe.