At the same time, Ethernet has gained momentum, because it’s a fast, mature technology with high production volumes in the computer industry. "Ethernet has a certain beauty compared to MOST," Reger told us. "It's not proprietary. And you have a few hundred thousand man-years of development in TCP/IP-based systems around the world and in all sorts of applications."
The auto industry's idea is to leverage the computer industry's enormous Ethernet know-how.
The concept is apparently catching on. Freescale Semiconductor recently teamed with BMW on the development of a 32-bit Ethernet-based microcontroller for use in surround-camera parking-assist systems. And more companies, including Daimler AG, are said to be on the verge of joining the SIG.
"The industry is begging us to develop Ethernet silicon," Reger says. "The automakers in China, Korea, and the US who did not already have MOST in their vehicles are highly interested in Ethernet."
To keep up with our Chevy Volt coverage, go to Drive for Innovation and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. On his trip, sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is driving a Volt across America to interview engineers.
Having come from the traditional IT world where Ethernet has long been a standard, I suppose I have a particular bias. That said, Chuck, I'm wondering why the automotive makers and other industry sectors have been hestitant to spec Ethernet in the past since it's such a well-proven technology? What advantages did the MOST technology you talk about in the article have over Ethernet and how has that changed now?
Chuck - How much of this slow adoption rate do you believe is due to regulations and entrenched processes in the automobile industry? Having worked on the research and development side of the automobile industry I know that they are very innovative and develop cutting-edge tools used for design and testing -- all while the production vehicle is outfitted with a cassette tape deck and a bicycle brake cable actuator for the fuel door.
Replacing the spools of copper with multiplexed twisted pair would have an instant effect on fuel economy. Is it because "that is not how it is done" or an automated assembly line that cannot accommodate radical change? I suspect that it is not due to insufficient technology.
Even after years of reading about the incredible advances made in automobiles, I am still amazed at what the car companies are coming up with. When I was younger and my parents put the car on "cruise control," I thought it meant that the car knew where we were going and would just take us there by itself. Based on all the fascinating (at least to me) stories I've been reading lately, I'd say that might not be so far-fetched after all!
Bill makes a good point about regulation. Another, somewhat related issue, is that the user life of a car is now well in excess of what it used to be. I believe people now keep their cars upwards of 9 years. So this means, as new technologies displace older ones, will be have issues about maintainability of legacy vehicles. OTOH, I was always able to get parts for my 1988 Camry. I finally had to get rid of it two years ago when the rust became a danger (the rear quarter panel was about to fall off, and maybe the trunk after that).
I hate to be a wet blanket, but this sounds to me like yet more wiring that can go wrong. Automotive wiring is notoriously difficult to fix when some short or simple disconnection happens. This may just add to the "fun" for mechanics. Are there are statistics for failure rates?
>> -- all while the production vehicle is outfitted with a cassette tape deck
>> and a bicycle brake cable actuator for the fuel door.
I don't think I have seen cassette tape decks since around the 2000 model year, when they were replaced by CD players. Actually, my 2000 Mustang had both. The cassette decks were not nearly as reliable as CD players, due to the damage that moisture condensation tended to do to the tapes. In my experience, the CD players wear out after about 8-10 years. Replacing a 10-year old car stereo with an up-to-date aftermarket unit tended to be a nice, affordable upgrade to the vehicle. One that will not be possible with the modern OEM integrated system control/entertainment/navigation systems.
I think the "brake cable" activated fuel door is a perfectly serviceable solution. The alternatives would be a key lock on the door (clunky, especially in an era when the doors are keyless, proximity key actuated) or a solenoid operated mechanism, which I think would be quite a bit more expensive and less reliable.
The idea is that you would have LESS wiring with a standardized data network bus instead of "home run" wiring to each device data point. You just have to get to the nearest network switch, which might be a short distance.
@RadioGuy - I was intentionally exaggerating to illustrate my point. While car companies continue to highlight performance of components under the hood, inside the transmission, or bolted onto the suspension it has not been until recently that median sedans included technology over and above power windows and door locks. With so many commuters spending multiple hours in their automobiles per day, it is difficult to appreciate the technology of Variable Valve Timing while sitting in traffic with only a speedometer and an FM radio to keep you company. If manufacturers are going to incorporate radical changes such as drive-by-wire Ethernet, the entire system will require a redesign or more appropriately, a new design from scratch.
Beth: If you've ever had a computer lock up on you or, worse, gotten the so-called BSOD (blue screen of death), then you can understand why automotive engineers were worried about Ethernet. They need determinism. If a message doesn't get to the brakes or steering or engine on time, they could have a serious safety problem, so they simply stayed away from Ethernet. They used CAN for powertrain and MOST for infotainment because of its bandwidth. But over the last few years, Ethernet has been recognized for greater determinism and MOST has lost some support because it's proprietary and because it's more expensive than Ethernet. So Ethernet has nudged its way into the picture, especially for applications such as video, which isn't safety-critical.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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