The connected car as a platform

-December 19, 2012

When people think of the connected car they think of a car that hooks to the cloud. The reality is that the car itself is a connected platform that enables multiple protocols to talk together and connects to the cloud through the occupant’s mobile cellular service and hardware.

The current models feature multiple communication systems that connect the engine, drivers assist, tire pressure, airbag and safety systems and camera/radar systems to the drivers display. There is also a network that connects the passenger area to the information system along with entertainment control. (See Figure 1 – current connected vehicle setup.)

Figure 1: A current example of a connected car setup.

These systems are moving from just wired systems like CAN, MOST, and Flexray to more standard systems like Ethernet. These a new wired Ethernet solutions can support low weight, unshielded cable capable of 100Mbps in full duplex mode, for connectivity. This wired core system is being sought by many auto manufacturers, such as BMW, to allow for the car being a platform core, like a data center, with one in-platform interconnect system, and edge of network being wireless or USB interface. The wireless connections of choice are WiFi and Bluetooth both sharing the 2.4GHz band.

This single network configuration simplifies the communication options by creating a single protocol for the data transfer. This allows for industry qualification such as the standards in the global automotive industry including TS16949 compliance/ISO 9001 certification, in-car EMC performance and AEC-Q100, to be addressed in one pass. By going to the single interface system with the unshielded cables, automotive manufacturers can reduce the weight of the systems by as much as 30% and cost of the connections by as much as 80%.

This market is being addressed by automotive-grade (up to 85°C) solutions such as the Broadcom BroadR-Reach communication products. These are part of their offering that is driving the Automotive OPEN (One-Pair Ether-Net) Alliance SIG. This SIG is promoting the switch to In-Car Ethernet. The OPEN Alliance has already registerd over 100 members and additional info is available at www.opensig.org .

The connected car is driving the automotive semiconductor market to being near $9B by 2018. The main roadblock is the multiple non-interfacing data formats from the separate subsystem that is tied to proprietary protocols. As a result the factory installed networking connections are increasing due to integration of the systems with sensors networks that are not accessible post vehicle assembly. This factory installed rate can be as high as 60% in the near future.

The costs of these systems has dramatically reduced are available both in mass market vehicles ans luxury applications. The mass market vehicles generally have been using dynamic database calls and temporary data storage that remain on a short duration temporal period. While in the same application space the luxury vehicles tend to recoded, trends and knowledge stores that can be analyzed in the vehicle and also downloaded and analyzed in the cloud outside the vehicle.

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