New ICs, topologies beat the automotive data-net bottleneck

February 21, 2013 //By Peter Hall, Analog Devices, Inc.
New ICs, topologies beat the automotive data-net bottleneck
This article describes a high-speed vehicle network technology that can support the many displays and other functions users expect, while avoiding cabling and connector issues in auto applications.

Today's automotive designers have an opportunity wrapped in a major challenge: customers want more connectivity and graphics—and are apparently willing to pay for it. Drivers and passengers want basic operating information, of course, but they also want real-time maps, entertainment, and information. If they have learned to live with and, in fact, love those multiple screens in their home and office environment, why should they also not want the same in their mobile automotive world? The reality is that this sort of connectivity and display has gone from being "nice to have" to "must have" with today's younger buyers. It doesn't matter if you call it infotainment, smart driver interface, networked vehicle, vehicle connectivity via the cloud, or anything else: it's becoming a standard accessory on all but the low-end vehicles.

But there's a technical problem. Issues which are manageable in the fixed home/office situation are very different in the automotive world. Supporting multiple screens is not just matter of computing "horsepower". It also brings complex cabling, connectors, power dissipation, and signal integrity concerns—all of which are at a premium and severely constrained in the automotive world.

Technically, there are three areas that must be addressed: the graphics processing core(s); the multiple displays; and the high-performance interconnecting network between the graphics engine and the displays. Consider that a vehicle will have an instrument cluster, a front passenger-side display, a central console, possibly a heads-up display [HUD], a rear backup camera, and even a rear-seat monitor camera. The overriding challenge is this: how do you effectively support four, five, or more displays and cameras from a single, centrally located graphics-rendering and image-processing core?

The obvious solution of using large, standard PC cables and interfaces such as HDMI will not work, for several reasons. First, there's the sheer bulk of routing these cables. Signal integrity in the noisy auto environment is a problem, especially over the distances. Plus, there's the cost and

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