Ethernet to redefine E/E architectures, expert says

January 23, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Ethernet in cars will come faster and more comprehensively than many players expect. If business consultancy Frost & Sullivan is correct, the numbers of nodes for the digital data network in vehicles will explode in the years ahead.

With the use of the Ethernet technology in cars gaining pace very rapidly in Europe and North America, automotive network paradigms are shifting. Connected cars enable a host of new service models - provided the data exchange within the vehicle can be achieved at high speed and with great permeability - two factors that Ethernet, unlike most established automotive network technologies, can guarantee. Frost & Sullivan believes that against this background, the number of Ethernet nodes in the luxury class will exceed 100 by 2020. In the mass market, 50 to 60 Ethernet nodes will be the standard and even small entry-level vehicles will accommodate up to ten such devices. During the same time span, the global market for Ethernet ports will reach a volume of 300 million units.

This expansion will be driven by data-intensive applications, in particular the deployment of camera-based driver assistance systems with their high data intensity. These systems include assisted parking, lane departure warning, collision avoiding and traffic sign recognition. With their high amounts of data generated, these systems will require backbone bandwidths of 100 Megabit/s. The introduction of a data backbone in cars will fundamentally change the todays in-vehicle data network architecture, says Frost & Sullivan Automotive & Transportation Research Analyst Divya Krishnamurty. "In such an architecture we will see Ethernet as the backbone, connecting multiple domains and subnetworks. Other car networks like LIN, CAN and FlexRay lack the specifications to meet the demand for high bandwidth and scalability". These shortfalls highlight the need for a common network that supports all these in-vehicle requirements".

Automotive OEMs and suppliers invest already - or will have to invest - in the development of Ethernet-based electrical and electronic (E/E) system architectures. This is a research-intensive and costly process, Krishnamurty said. Benefits in terms of cost, performance, interoperability, upgradeability, and time to market can be achieved through the standardisation of Ethernet platforms. In this context, Krishnamurty pointed out