Alliances boost momentum for Ethernet in vehicles

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Ethernet may become the networking architecture used to provide 360-degree vision for driver-assistance systems.

The drive to move commercial technologies such as Ethernet and open source software into vehicles is gaining momentum. A number of companies are basing plans on the ubiquitous network, and two consortia recently teamed up to focus on boosting interest in using Ethernet in infotainment systems.

In October, the GENIVI Alliance and AVnu Alliance linked up to focus on applications. The GENIVI group promotes an open source development platform for automotive infotainment, while the AVnu association is promoting the adoption of the IEEE 802.1 Audio Video Bridging standard, commonly called Ethernet AVB. AVnu members include a number of consumer electronics suppliers, while GENIVI members have more of an automotive focus.

“AVnu is aligning its work to fit what GENIVI plans for the software stack,” said Rick Kreifeldt, President of the AVnu Alliance. “Tier 1s can use Ethernet AVB middleware that will work with GENIVI.”

Together, they plan to provide platforms that will make it easier for automakers to keep pace with rapidly changing consumer electronic technologies including handhelds and Web-based services ranging from Facebook to Pandora.

“We do compliance testing,” said Kreifeldt, who is also Research and Innovation VP at Harman. “That’s significant for automakers, because they’re looking at systems with lots of components and many suppliers. We take the burden off them for testing and knowing what to test.”

Although Ethernet usage in cars is still limited to some luxury vehicles, many observers feel that it will see solid growth through the rest of the decade. Some feel it will pervade vehicle environments beyond infotainment.

“Ethernet will definitely take over in cars; it’s already proven itself in many applications on many types of media,” said Ranjit Deshpande, Vice President of Engineering at Renesas Electronics America. “What can happen after you start with Ethernet AVB is that you can go to Internet Protocol technology throughout the vehicle.”

Another indication of interest in automotive Ethernet came earlier this year when a number of industry leaders formed the OPEN Alliance Special Interest Group. OPEN is an acronym for One-Pair Ether-Net, a variant of Ethernet that was developed by Broadcom with input from consortium members. Kreifeldt noted that these efforts are complementary.

“They can all be bundled together. The OPEN Alliance provides the physical layer, AVnu provides the middleware, and GENIVI addresses the overall infotainment system,” he said.

Chipmakers and tool providers are stepping forward to make it easy for automotive engineers to port the popular network to vehicles. Chipmakers are tweaking Ethernet peripherals ruggedized for industrial applications so they fit automotive requirements. Tool providers are also ramping up their efforts by working with the industry groups.

National Instruments is very involved in Ethernet AVB,” said Noah Reding, Automotive Product Manager at NI. “We’re also getting involved with the OPEN Alliance.”

Vehicle makers are starting to move ahead with implementations. BMW is using the standard, and Hyundai recently forged an alliance with Broadcom’s OPEN group. Many automakers are bullish about their roles in Ethernet consortia, prompting widespread speculation that the network will be used for camera and infotainment systems.

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