Broadcom, NXP, Freescale and Harman join forces to establish in-car Ethernet

November 09, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The trend towards the deployment of Ethernet in for in-vehicle networking (IVN) is gaining further momentum: After recent announcements from chip vendor Freescale and automotive supplier Continental, four technology companies launched the OPEN Special Interest Group aiming at establishing the technology in automotive applications.

OPEN stands for "One Pair Ether-Net" and refers to Broadcom's success in providing an Ethernet PHY/MAC technology that can transmit 100Mbit Ethernet signals over inexpensive two-wire unshielded cables — a major advantage over competing fibre optic cables and LVDS wiring. The technology has been developed in close cooperation with carmakers BMW and Hyundai. The OPEN SIG has announced to address industry requirements for improving in-vehicle safety, comfort and infotainment while reducing network complexity and cabling costs. In addition, the group plans to establish its technology as an open standard.

NXP has licensed Broadcom's technology dubbed BroadR-Reach and announced to develop semiconductors on this basis. From the company's perspective, which claims the pole position in the IVN semiconductor market, Ethernet is complementary to existing IVN technologies such as CAN, LIN, LVDS and FlexRay.

As cars evolve into ever more sophisticated and connected electronic environments, there is increasing demand among OEMs and design engineers for an IVN technology that can handle high-bandwidth applications without being excessively expensive. Broadcom BroadR-Reach Ethernet technology has significant cost advantages over other high-bandwidth IVN technologies such as LVDS, based on its ability to operate over single unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cabling. Not only is single UTP less expensive and lower in weight than shielded cabling, the technology is already in use by CAN- and LIN-based control systems, enabling BroadR-Reach to run over existing in-vehicle networks.

One of the key applications driving high-bandwidth IVN is camera-based security, a safety feature that may become mandatory for new vehicles in countries such as the US in the future. By networking a series of cameras mounted on the outside of the vehicle, the driver can get a 360-degree view of what's happening around the car displayed via the dashboard. Other high-bandwidth applications that Ethernet could support include networked infotainment - one of the reasons why infotainment company Harman, otherwise a strong proponent of the competing MOST technology, has jumped the Ethernet