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Continental talks in-car Ethernet

Posted: 12 Dec 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Ethernet? in-car network? MOST networking?

Continental AG has laid out details of its plans to roll out Ethernet as the technology for in-car networking. The company is also planning to replace MOST with Ethernet as the current infotainment networking technology.

According to Continental, Ethernet is the ideal means for data networks in vehicles because of the increasing bandwidth requirements driven by next generation camera-based driver assistance systems. With a bandwidth of 100Mb/s and using simple, cost-effective unshielded two-wire copper cable, Ethernet will connect all relevant ECUs, antennas and sensors, the automotive electronics supplier explained.

Now Continental has submitted a kind of roadmap for the roll-out of Ethernet. In the first step, the electronics provider plans to equip the interior and chassis and safety domains with Ethernet since in these domains wiring is a relatively easy task. Later, the cars could be networked entirely with Ethernet, doing away with technologies today in use but with much lower performance.

In terms of introducing Ethernet, the relatively long automotive design cycles apply. First products will be available in 2015. Gradually, Ethernet will conquer all automotive domains. "Around 2020, we can imagine having the first pre-development projects with Ethernet in all domains", the company said in a press release.

Ethernet would make a multitude of benefits available to carmakersbenefits that other segments of the IT world already could use for decades but were not accessible for in-car networking designers because of the extreme EMC requirements in vehicles. "Ethernet will help to reduce the total vehicle costs and at the same time increase functionality," explained Continental board member Helmut Matschi.

In a cost comparison against MOST, Ethernet would allow one to implement solutions 15 to 20 percent cheaper, Continental said. The comparison included the electric and electronic components as well as the cabling. And pricing is not the only advantage of Ethernet over MOST. The optical networks used in MOST applications are much more difficult to handle because of their relatively high diameter and bending radius. "Handling MOST cables in a car is a nightmare," said a design engineer who asked for anonymity.

From Continental's perspective, Ethernet will affect the networking topology in cars. Since today's 100Mb/s Ethernet anticipates a star topology instead of a bus topology, cars will need to be equipped with a number of switches. In part, these will be integrated into ECUs or other domain controllers.

Further, there will be a central gateway with an Ethernet interface. This gateway also terminates existing CAN, FlexRay and MOST network segments and connects them to the Ethernet world. In this context, Continental already is talking of IP communicationthe communication scheme in widespread use in commercial and technical networking.

One of the first components for in-car Ethernet communications has already been developed by Continental development partner Kathrein. This is an intelligent module with multiple antennae for wireless communications between car and infrastructure as well as for the communication between the car and any computers or smartphones inside the vehicle.

The module also contains the related receiver and transmitter circuitry. All data received can be digitized and be fed onto the internal IP based network for further processing. This, Continental said, is an important building block to turn the vision of "Always On" for cars into reality.

Broadcom Corp. has also released an automotive Ethernet portfolio that promises to reduce connectivity costs up to 80 percent and cabling weight to as much as 30 percent. Broadcom says that its automotive solution will allow multiple in-vehicle systems to simultaneously access information over unshielded single twisted pair cable.

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