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How to Build a Better In-Vehicle Connectivity System

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Data from cameras, sensors, displays and more present real in-vehicle connectivity interface challenges.

Advancements in ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems), IVI (in-vehicle infotainment), and ADS (autonomous driving systems) have driven the significant increase in onboard cameras, sensors, displays, and computing systems. These complex systems require data interfaces that are flexible, easy to use and can transfer the data reliably, efficiently, and cost-effectively to ECUs (electronic control units) anywhere in the car. For automotive designers, a standardized approach to data interfaces is preferred over proprietary interfaces to leverage greater economies of scale and enable ease of integration and faster time to market.

The MIPI Alliance is advancing its wired interface solutions to meet the stringent requirements of next-generation vehicles. In this way, designers can leverage MIPI’s mobile specifications that are already widely deployed in automotive (particularly CSI-2 for cameras and DSI-2 for displays) for a standardized approach that offers built-in functional safety, security, noise immunity, scalability, and performance.

To learn more about how the MIPI Alliance can help designers develop products that can handle the ever-increasing amount of data flow in automotive systems, Design News caught-up with Hezi Saar, MIPI Alliance Board Member. 

Design News: There must be a number of vendors that supply these data interfaces. How does providing a standardized interface help?

Hezi Saar: Standardization is critical for the automotive industry’s system designers and developers because it not only reduces costs but also fosters greater interoperability and choice, as well as additional support services such as test and software resources provided by a growing ecosystem. In many ways, it is similar to the mobile environment in the early 2000s when MIPI Alliance formed with a focus on standardizing the camera and display interfaces for mobile phones. The standards developed helped to make smartphones a reality, spurring innovation, simplifying design costs, and improving time to market.

In-vehicle connectivity interfaces today are widely used and typically target lower speeds. Until MIPI A-PHY (see below), no clear standardized solutions existed for long-reach, high-speed asymmetric interfaces between various components (e.g., cameras, sensors, displays) and ECUs. The proprietary solutions that exist today have resulted in market fragmentation and, in turn, limited economies of scale. Plus, there are considerations around cost, scalability, wire-harness weight, noise immunity, power consumption, and potential points of failure that come along with the use of specialized bridge components to connect proprietary long-reach SerDes interfaces.

Along the way, standardization brings about a more vibrant ecosystem of interoperability, backward compatibility, and market coalescence around a clear roadmap. All of that ultimately adds up to helping the automotive industry concentrate its investments and energies on what’s most important—on the features that actually make our vehicles safer and smarter.

Design News: Tell me briefly about the new MIPI specification for automotive SerDes systems.

Hezi Saar: The newly released MIPI A-PHY v1.0 is a long-reach serializer-deserializer (SerDes) physical layer interface. The new specification provides an asymmetric data link in a flexible point-to-point or daisy chain topology, providing high-speed unidirectional data, embedded bidirectional control data, and optional power delivery over a single cable. Over a reach of up to 15 meters, the specification delivers high reliability (a packet error rate of <10-19 or less than one error in the lifetime of the car), high immunity to EMI effects in the demanding automotive environment, and data rates up to 16 Gbps with a roadmap to 48 Gbps.

A-PHY's primary mission is to transfer high-speed data between cameras, sensors, and displays and their related ECUs. Through the development of additional supporting end-to-end specifications, MIPI Automotive SerDes Solutions (MASS) will allow proven higher-layer protocols from MIPI (such as MIPI CSI-2 and DSI-2), and approved third-party protocols such as VESA’s DisplayPort and Embedded DisplayPort, to operate over physical links that may span an entire vehicle, eliminating the need for “bridges” and proprietary SerDes interfaces. For automotive design, this equates to simplified networks and reduced costs, weight, and development time. MASS offers unprecedented functional safety and security built-in at the protocol level, guided by the requirements in ISO 26262, which gives system-level engineers the architecture they need to build systems meeting ASIL (Automotive Safety Integrity Level) requirements at any level, from ASIL B to ASIL D. 

Design News: When will products developed with this specification be available?

Hezi Saar: Because of the generally longer design cycles within automotive, it is anticipated that MIPI A-PHY and the related MASS specifications will begin appearing in 2024 vehicles. It’s expected that the implementation process will begin with A-PHY while retaining bridge solutions and then will move over time to the fully integrated MASS system.

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Automakers are expected to integrate MIPI A-PHY into their systems in two phases.

John Blyler is a Design News senior editor, covering the electronics and advanced manufacturing spaces. With a BS in Engineering Physics and an MS in Electrical Engineering, he has years of hardware-software-network systems experience as an editor and engineer within the advanced manufacturing, IoT and semiconductor industries. John has co-authored books related to system engineering and electronics for IEEE, Wiley, and Elsevier.

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