For FlexRay, the future is crystal clear: The first FlexRay application will not be seen in real-life cars in 2005. This is the only "bad" news about this new de-facto communication standard for automotive electronics. But this year, two to three OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) will announce that they plan to employ this new communication system. And in 2006/2007, FlexRay will be a common part of the first line of cars.
For FlexRay itself, following scenarios possibly will start to emerge: Firstly, FlexRay applications will be introduced gradually into the car, "replacing" and improving existing applications. Thanks to this systematic step-by-step approach, it is easier for engineers and developers to master the integration of this new technology. Secondly, FlexRay is the up-coming communication network for automotive electronics, serving as a highly reliable, deterministic, and fast "back-bone." Thus, a FlexRay network will connect all the applications and ensure that especially safety-critical applications get all the information they need to work properly. Other bus systems such as CAN, MOST, or LIN will link to the FlexRay backbone and work together seamlessly.
Coming back into the near future, it is for sure that FlexRay is on its way to become an established technology in 2005. Due to the dynamics of an emerging market, an increasing number of suppliers of soft- and hardware is going to try to get their respective share and is going to offer FlexRay soft- and hardware in the second half of 2005. But all suppliers, existing as well as new ones, will have to face the increasing push of the automotive industry towards interoperability and standardized interfaces. This is also a move towards interchangeabilityand it certainly does make sense for the industry to be able to switch between products from different vendors as well as even between vendors. OEMs and the leading Tier 1 players have obviously learned their lesson and therefore try to avoid dependencies and proprietary "solutions" wherever possible.
And continuing a very well known trend, costs have to come downand standardization is one of the main keys. Therefore, organizations like AUTOSAR (Automotive Open System Architecture) will continue to proliferate and prosper. The AUTOSAR partnership is an alliance of OEM manufacturers and Tier 1 automotive suppliers working together to develop and establish a de-facto open industry standard for automotive E/E architecture, which will serve as a basic infrastructure for the management of functions within both future applications and standard software modules.
The year 2005 will therefore see the automotive industry's foot on the accelerator and in hot pursuit of standardizing basic system functions and functional interfaces. The ability to integrate and transfer functions will substantially improve software updates and upgrades over the vehicle lifetimeand thus help to boost the quality of any connected automotive electronics applications. This positive outlook, however, will take some time to realize and give us the opportunity to look into the crystal ball in the forthcoming years.
About the Author
Dr. Arnold Zimmermann is Marcom Manager for Decomsys Dependable Computer Systems. The Austrian high-tech Company is a development member of the FlexRay Consortium and provides a comprehensive portfolio of software, prototyping hardware, chip design, test cases, consulting, trainings, engineering, and support. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org