The convergence of data transport technologies with audio and video distribution requirements has resulted in a new architecture for today's automotive entertainment systems. Networking and USB protocols are fast becoming recognized as optimal solutions for handling data transfer that has previously only been supported by slower, indirect communication flows. Automakers are developing connectivity systems that bridge the benefits of Ethernet, USB, and Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST®) to deliver fast and efficient data. Each of these technologies has been optimized for specific uses.
MOST technology is the result of the collaboration of members of the MOST Cooperation, an association of 16 carmakers and over 65 suppliers working to establish and refine a common standard for the evolving requirements of automotive multimedia networking. Through this collaboration, MOST technology has become the de-facto standard in the automotive industry for transporting high-bandwidth audio, video, and control information between various vehicle subsystems. Its quality of service (QoS) makes it a prime transport for applications that stream content to provide consumers with high-quality information, video, and sound.
Design cycle differences
Automobiles evolve in fundamentally different time frames than consumer electronics products, with the consumer electronics industry moving at a much more rapid pace. The major innovations in both industries, however, do follow similar timelines. For example, the changes from vinyl records, to tapes, CDs, and now mass storage devices each took 15 years or more to become widely established in the consumer world.
MOST provides a way to decouple the automotive product lifecycles from consumer product lifecycles. The technology provides a way to build-in major technological advances into the automotive system, even as they evolve, while relegating specific and rapidly changing consumer interfaces to gateways attached to the vehicle backbone.
The MOST standard ensures that the backbone is built to withstand the harsh environmental and electromagnetic conditions in the car, and that changes in the pipeline that move audio and video around are under the control of the automaker. The less robust consumer technologies can then be properly protected from this environment with more specialized interface products. These products can then extract the audio and video information from the latest consumer device and format it for transport to the screens and amplifiers that are optimized for the car.
MOST technology was developed by the automotive industry for the automotive industry, specifically taking into account the long life spans of these products and their special reliability and environmental requirements. It provides a highly reliable network backbone within the vehicle.
This standard includes not only the physical connections between devices but also a well-defined application programming interface (API) that allows products developed by different suppliers to interact with each other. The API abstracts the physical layer details from the application so that it does not need to worry about the underlying data rates or whether the interconnection is over optical fiber or unshielded twisted pair (UTP) electrical cables.