Driven by IEEE Standards, Ethernet Hits the Road in 2016

December 01, 2015 // By Junko Yoshida
A new trend emerging in the automotive market in 2016 is the migration of Ethernet, a tried- and-true computer network technology, into connected cars. The proliferation of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features in many vehicles is also expected to expand Ethernet use. Although carmakers already use Ethernet for on-board diagnostics connectivity, new in 2016 is the use of “automotive Ethernet” as an in-vehicle network backbone.

Automotive chip suppliers’ expectations are running high for Tier Ones and car OEMs to start embracing Ethernet switches to connect safety sensors, 360-degree camera systems, infotainment, head units and dashboards. For this scenario to become reality, the Open Alliance led by Broadcom has paved the way by developing BroadR-Reach, a 100Mbit per second Ethernet physical-layer standard specifically designed for automotive connectivity applications BroadR-Reach can run high-bandwidth data over a single-pair unshielded twisted-pair copper wire, cutting cable and connector costs, while reducing the weight of the wiring harness inside a car.

The BroadR-Reach-based automotive Ethernet is already designed into several BMW models and series, as well as Jaguar and Volkswagen’s Passat. However, the number of automakers and car models that has embraced automotive Ethernet remains limited.

Two factors are coming into play to change that landscape in 2016 — the completion of IEEE standards and a roadmap for the future. The completion of IEEE 100BASE-T1 and 1000BASE-T1 standards are both expected next year. Some automotive industry observers view this as critical for the proliferation of automotive Ethernet chips and design wins.

Source: Marvell

For example, Broadcom licenses today the BroadR-Reach technology to other chip suppliers, including NXP. Micrel and Marvell developed their own family of automotive Ethernet PHYs and switches (with Micrel is now a part of Microchip) but neither is a member of the Open Alliance. With the completion of IEEE 100BASE-T standard, expect more chip vendors to follow the automotive Ethernet trend.