"No car will be an island"

November 05, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Novel automotive applications such as camera-based ADAS, car-to-x communications or automated driving, trigger avalanches of data. To cope with this data flood, high-performance data networks have to be established within the vehicles, offering much higher bandwidth that existing solutions. The likely candidate of choice will be Ethernet, with a modified Physical Layer. EE Times Europe discussed the matter with Steve Carlson, Executive Secretary of the IEEE 802.3 Ethernet Working Group.

EE Times Europe: What standardization is necessary to anchor Ethernet in automotive applications?

Steve Carlson: First, we all should recognize that Ethernet as it exists today is capable of executing full-duplex, absolutely deterministic transmission between endpoints. It also provides 100% bandwidth utilization, which is critical for the automotive industry to roll out future applications. The implementation challenges of Ethernet in automotive are identical to those any networking technology handling the growing amount of data generated by automotive systems. These challenges are network architecture issues such as what happens when the data reaches a switch. The standardization activity for automotive we have in process today is very much focused defining a PHY layer for 1 Gb/s transmission over a single, unshielded twisted-pair wire and how to provide that service in the harsh electro-magnetic environment of an automobile. This PHY will give automotive designers the minimum number of pairs at the lowest possible weight and cost. We're also standardizing, in a different 802.3 project, a power delivery technology that can be used to run the devices at the end of the data line. This means a single twisted pair can supply a gigabit of data and the power to run whatever endpoint device may be at the other end of the line.

EE Times Europe: What is Ethernet’s roadmap for moving from its automotive applications today - infotainment in the first place - into real-time applications such as drive-by-wire and brake-by-wire?

Carlson: Ethernet deployment is already well beyond infotainment. It has been in the diagnostic port of automobiles for a number of years and we’re already seeing it deployed as the communication link in camera systems. Standardization in this application is very important to OEMs because unlike competing LVDS (Low-Voltage Differential Signaling) technologies, Ethernet offers compatibility with systems outside the automobile. The next Ethernet application will be to interconnect multiple ECUs (Electronic Control Units) so all the ECUs will be have a