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Ethernet Set to Bring About Shift in How Automotive Networks are Implemented

This sponsored post, associated with the IEEE SA Ethernet & IP @ Automotive Technology Day event, solely represents the views of the author, was developed independently by the entity sponsoring the post, and does not necessarily represent a position of either IEEE or IEEE Standards Association.

By Christopher Mash, Senior Director of Automotive Applications & Architecture, Marvell

The in-vehicle networks currently used in automobiles are based on a combination of several different data networking protocols, some of which have been in place for decades. As a result of using different protocols, gateways are needed to transfer data within the infrastructure. The resulting complexity is costly for car manufacturers. The number of electronic control units (ECUs) incorporated into cars is also continuously increasing, with luxury models now often having 150 or more ECUs, and even standard models are now approaching 80-90 ECUs. At the same time, data intensive applications are emerging to support advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) implementation, as we move toward greater levels of vehicle autonomy. All this is causing a significant ramp in data rates and overall bandwidth, with the increasing deployment of HD cameras and LiDAR technology on the horizon.

As a consequence, the entire approach in which in-vehicle networking is deployed needs to fundamentally change, first in terms of the topology used and, second, with regard to the underlying technology on which it relies.

As network complexity increases, it is now becoming clear to automotive engineers that this domain-based approach is becoming less and less efficient. Consequently, in the coming years, there will need to be a migration away from the current domain-based architecture to a zonal one.

A zonal arrangement means data from different traditional domains is connected to the same ECU, based on the location (zone) of that ECU in the vehicle. This arrangement will greatly reduce the wire harnessing required, thereby lowering weight and cost. Ethernet technology will be pivotal in moving to zonal-based, in-vehicle networks.

Future expectations are that Ethernet will form the foundation upon which all data transfer around the car will occur, providing a common protocol stack that reduces the need for gateways between different protocols. The result will be a single homogeneous network throughout the vehicle in which all the protocols and data formats are consistent. It will mean that the in-vehicle network will be scalable, allowing functions that require higher speeds (10G for example) and ultra-low latency to be attended to, while also addressing the needs of lower speed functions.

Each Ethernet switch in a zonal architecture will be able to carry data for all the different domain activities. All the different data domains would be connected to local switches and the Ethernet backbone would then aggregate the data, resulting in a more effective use of the available resources and allowing different speeds to be supported, as required, while using the same core protocols.

Marvell is leading the way when it comes to the progression of Ethernet-based, in-vehicle networking and zonal architectures by launching, the AEC-Q100-compliant 88Q5050 secure Gigabit Ethernet switch. This device not only deals with OSI Layers 1-2 (the physical layer and data layer) functions associated with standard Ethernet implementations, it also has functions located at OSI Layers 3,4 and beyond (the network layer, transport layer and higher), such as deep packet inspection (DPI). This, in combination with Trusted Boot functionality, provides automotive network architects with key features vital in ensuring network security.

Marvell is a Platinum Exhibitor at the 2018 IEEE Ethernet & IP @ Automotive Technology Day this 9 – 10 October in London, England.

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