Broadcom Tackles 5 Questions on Ethernet in Cars

August 24, 2015 // By Junko Yoshida
Right now, not many people in the know are willing to bet against the future that includes Ethernet in cars. Yet, angst and confusion continues to swirl around “automotive Ethernet” – whether this refers to the upcoming IEEE 802.3bw standard (also known as 100BASE-T1), the Broadcom-pioneered “BroadR-Reach” spec defined by the OPEN Alliance industry group, or any other variant.

Frequently asked questions about automotive Ethernet include its specific applications inside a car and whether it has enough bandwidth to meet ADAS requirements. There’s also concern about  Broadcom’s intellectual property, and most important, which car OEMs -- other than BMW -- are already using Ethernet. We sat down with Timothy Lau, director of automotive at Broadcom.

Beyond BMW

EE Times:   Besides BMW, who else in the auto industry is on board with the use of Ethernet in their cars?

Timothy Lau: Based on our direct engagement with automotive OEMs and Tier One’s, we see multiple OEMs developing Ethernet network solutions based on BroadR-Reach technology. Beyond the 2014 and 2015 BMW X5, those that are public now include the 2015 Jaguar Land Rover XJ and the 2015 Volkswagen Passat.

EE Times: For what specific applications are they using Ethernet in their models?

Lau: BMW has begun using automotive Ethernet to connect cameras to the optional surround-view system electronic control unit in the BMW X5. The Jaguar Land Rover is using automotive Ethernet in its infotainment network. The Volkswagen Passat is using Ethernet for a parking assistant. The Passat is a good example that illustrates BroadR-Reach is now rapidly moving into mass-market cars.

EE Times: What’s prompting a car maker to use BroadR-Reach for parking assist?

Lau: For parking assist, cost is the driving force. For example, car makers are adding several surround-view cameras in addition to a soon-to-be mandated backup camera. Previously, they used analog cameras, connecting them via LVDS [low-voltage differential signaling] over coaxial cables. Now as they transition from analog to digital cameras, BroadR-Reach turns out to be a less costly solution. BroadR-reach lets multiple in-vehicle systems simultaneously access information over unshielded single twisted pair cable.

EE Times: I’ve always thought the infotainment network inside a car would be the first place where BroadR-Reach would move in. But aside from Land Rover, we haven't seen many examples yet.