The use of automotive Ethernet is on the rise as in-vehicles systems support more complex computing needs. RCR Wireless NewsWhat is automotive Ethernet?
Automotive Ethernet is the use of an Ethernet-based network for connections between in-vehicle electronic systems. Ixia has defined it as “a physical network that is used to connect components within a car using a wired network. It is designed to meet the needs of the automotive market, including meeting electrical requirements … bandwidth requirements, latency requirements, synchronization and network management requirements.”
“Automakers are using more and more traditional telecom and IT technology,” said Thomas Schultze, automotive business development director for Spirent Communications. “It is driven by connectivity, but also through all the new safety enhancements. And overall, everything leads to autonomous driving.”
Why is automotive Ethernet becoming more common in vehicles?
The number of vehicles with automotive Ethernet began picking up last year, at which time BMW, Jaguar and Volkswagen all had vehicles on the road with automotive Ethernet. Electronic Design called automotive Ethernet a “hidden trend” at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show.
“There is no doubt that consumer demand for advanced driver assistance and infotainment features are on the rise,” said Kirsten Matheus, Ethernet project manager at BMW, as part of the One-Pair Ethernet Special Interest Group’s analysis that the market was picking up. “One-pair automotive Ethernet technology provides a single, centralized network backbone that simplifies the deployment of advanced features.”
The One-Pair Ether-Net Alliance, which supports the advancement of automotive Ethernet, reached more than 300 members earlier this year.
Broadcom, for one, has observed that the use of Ethernet cabling versus the traditional vehicle harness wiring can make a major difference in the weight of the vehicle. Since the harness can comprise 50% of the labor costs of a vehicle, the ability to simplify that system while also supporting more advanced features is an attractive proposition.
Spirent was recently selected by Hyundai as its vendor for automotive Ethernet conformance testing. Schulze said automotive Ethernet is replacing the traditional, often proprietary in-vehicle communications standards such as the controller area network bus and FlexRay, due to limitations on those technology’s bandwidth. So automotive Ethernet is becoming the new communications backbone within the vehicle.
“It’s not just for cameras, it’s not just for infotainment,” said Thomas. “It’s to handle the bandwidth requirements for all the connected car information.”
What are some of the challenges of automotive Ethernet?
Schultze said the use of Ethernet for the in-car network is new to the automotive industry, so testing and validating the technology to ensure that it works properly is a new process for that vertical even though Ethernet has been an established IT technology for decades. Synchronization is particularly important for the in-vehicle network so that it works essentially in real-time, Thomas added, as well as making sure data is not lost as electrical control units communicate with each other. Lost or delayed radar information from the advanced driver assistance system, for instance, could have major safety effects.
Interoperability among components is another major issue for automotive Ethernet, Schultze added, as vehicles are assembled from components made by a wide range of suppliers.
“They have so many different vendors and suppliers within the car that they have to make sure that every component, or every software stack, is really complying to the standard. So therefore, testing and validation is very important,” Schultze said.
Security is another area of challenge for automotive Ethernet, which presents both new potential vulnerabilities for the vehicle as well as the ability to more quickly adapt and address security threats. Jan Holle, security engineer specializing in automotive Ethernet at Escrypt, has said Ethernet is not necessarily applicable in whole for automotive and existing security approaches will have to be modified for vehicle systems. However, Holle said, “automotive security can benefit from all the experience with IT security concepts that we have accumulated over the years, especially with regard to suitable architectures for implementing defense in depth strategies.
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