As homes become more digitally sophisticated, consumers are developing higher expectations for connectivity and greater levels of safety and comfort in their home away from home—their vehicle. As a result, in-vehicle electronics are growing in number and complexity, keeping step with technology advancements and capitalizing on consumer expectations for a connected driving experience.
Collision warning, comfort controls, infotainment and advanced driver assistance are just some of today’s sophisticated and diverse applications generating an increasing need for bandwidth and connectivity within and between in-vehicle networks. Answering these needs effectively is creating a significant competitive arena for innovation among automotive manufacturers and OEMs.
In such a market, vehicle electronics are no longer considered a series of distinct stand-alone components and are evolving into a more seamless in-vehicle network. By connecting through proven IP-based Ethernet technology, auto manufacturers have the means to bridge the gap between function and entertainment within a single network, while dramatically reducing connectivity cost and cabling weight.
Evolving Ethernet for automotive use
Ethernet is not unfamiliar to automotive electronics, but until recently its use was restricted to onboard diagnostics (OBD) rather than passenger-facing applications. In a service setting, with no passengers present and the engine off, a standard Ethernet connection was suitable for technicians to connect for testing and diagnostics. To make the shift from OBD applications to an in-vehicle network during engine operation, today’s Ethernet solutions must address the stringent requirements of the automotive industry, including electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), temperature tolerance, and emissions immunity.
At the same time, suppliers face the challenge of meeting rigorous industry performance regulations and must ensure they provide an open architecture with system compatibility throughout the vehicle. Above all, in-vehicle systems must be a differentiator for customers, not a road block. Buyers want new technologies and features but for minimal cost. From the customer’s perspective, it’s all about increasing functionality, connectivity and performance while maintaining affordability.
Vehicle bandwidth needs are expanding well beyond infotainment and navigation. In fact, the need for higher bandwidth is redefining a broad range of vehicle motion and safety applications. An Ethernet-based 360° surround view parking system, for example, combines multiple digital sensors and cameras with low-light sensitivity and high definition image and video capture—a groundbreaking step in migrating vehicle motion management from a closed application to an open, scalable driver assistance network in which several systems can access and share essential information.
By combining economical Ethernet technology with high resolution imagery gathered from affordable CMOS image sensors, automotive OEMs can dramatically extend sophisticated parking assistance systems to a broader range of vehicles, bringing valuable assistance options to luxury and non-luxury markets alike. This same standardized IP technology has the ability to drive audio and video packets for display and infotainment applications throughout the vehicle, manage body control systems, passive restraints, and more.
Today’s Ethernet-based automotive connectivity solutions, developed specifically to address automotive industry requirements, combine physical layer (PHY) transceiver and switch technology to deliver 100 ,Mbps over unshielded single twisted pair cable. This innovation bypasses traditional Category 5 cabling for Ethernet connectivity, allowing all vehicle components to connect with wires that are much thinner, lighter and more cost effective. By eliminating the need for expensive, cumbersome shielded cabling, automotive manufacturers can significantly reduce connectivity costs—by up to 80%—and cabling weight by up to 30%.
Ethernet-based automotive technology also offers advanced power savings by supporting multiple low power modes. Compliance with RGMII and MII interface specifications ensure compatibility with other Ethernet devices within the vehicle. For the automotive OEM, this allows for a single vehicle network and the ability to migrate from closed, individual applications to an open, scalable network that can manage multiple applications.
Standardizing next-generation in-vehicle networking
New demands on automotive networking technologies has industry leaders working to standardize on Ethernet platforms, gaining benefits in terms of cost, performance, ease of integration, and availability from an open and widely deployed technology. The wide range of in-vehicle applications—such as safety, infotainment and driver assistance—is reflected in a slate of rigorous performance standards in various stages of draft and approval.
For example, the ISO17215 standard currently in development defines video communication interfaces for on-board cameras providing driver assistance. This document set specifies the use cases, communication protocol and physical layer requirements (based on Ethernet) used within high resolution digital video interfaces. ISO17215 will standardize video communication protocols for systems such as parking assistance, night vision, lane departure warning, collision mitigation, and detection of traffic signs, blind spots and pedestrians.
On-board diagnostics is another arena that will benefit from standardization, as various national and international OBD processes are not fully aligned. ISO/PAS 27145, currently pending formal approval, addresses this issue by creating a migration path from existing communication platforms to this worldwide harmonized (WWH) OBD standard. This is intended to become the single communication standard for access to all OBD-related information. With an initial communication concept based on controller area network (CAN) technologies, WWH-OBD takes a secondary step, based on existing industry communications standards such as Internet Protocol over Ethernet. Using WWH-OBD platforms, engine manufacturers could certify one engine to meet OBD requirements internationally.