MUNICH, Germany Recent discussions to establish Ethernet in automotive applications are no threat to the position of FlexRay as the data transmission technology of choice for safety critical applications, believes NXP as one of the founding members of the FlexRay Consortium.
Ethernet will certainly find its way into automotive applications, explained Jeroen Keunen, General Manager MST Integrated IVN/FlexRay for chip vendor NXP in a telephone interview with EE Times Europe. "Automotive OEMs indeed are assessing Ethernet as replacement for existing networking technologies in the sector of media networking," Keunen said. "Ethernet will compete against the MOST bus but not against FlexRay".
According to Keunen, possible Ethernet applications are restricted to the entertainment field and to networking camera-based driver assistant systems. In addition, there are considerations to use Ethernet for diagnostic applications for instance for the connection between car and diagnostic equipment in workshops. "But when it comes to suspension and x-by-wire applications, FlexRay is the standard technology."
The current HEV and e-car hype helps to drive the acceptance for FlexRay, Keunen said, since x-by-wire helps to reduce the weight of the vehicle.
While currently only very few OEMs have announced car models using FlexRay, NXP expects that in the next years the number of OEMs using the deterministic data bus architecture will drastically increase. Currently a feature of a few high-end vehicles, FlexRay will be found in many midsize and compact cars in a few years, Keunen believes.
By reference to Strategy Analytics market studies, NXP Marketing Manager Rob Hoeben said he expects that the number of automotive network nodes shipped will amount to 2 billion units per year by 2015 adding up to a value of almost one billion dollar. FlexRay is expected to account for 8 percent of this market or 160 million units annually.
This indeed would be a huge increase compared to the current situation: NXP just announced the shipment of the millionth FlexRay transceiver chip. Besides Freescale, NXP is the leading manufacturer for FlexRay chips.
Currently, the version 3.0 for the FlexRay specs is discussed in the FlexRay Consortium; finalization is expected by end of the year. Core members of the group are automotive OEMs BMW, Daimler, General Motors and Volkswagen as well as tier one Robert Bosch GmbH and semiconductor vendors Freescale and NXP. With version 3.0 taking into account proposals of the Japan Automotive Software Platform and Architecture (Jaspar), Hoeben believes that FlexRay 3.0 will see wide acceptance also in Japan.
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