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Broadcom exec answers car Ethernet questions

Posted: 17 Aug 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Broadcom  Ethernet  automotive  IEEE 802.3bw  OPEN Alliance 

There are still a lot of questions surrounding automotive Ethernet. Regardless whether this refers to the upcoming IEEE 802.3bw standard (also known as 100BASE-T1), the Broadcom-pioneered "BroadR-Reach" spec defined by the OPEN Alliance industry group, or any other variant, queries about this technology need to be addressed prior to mass market uptake.

Frequently asked questions about automotive Ethernet include its specific applications inside a car and whether it has enough bandwidth to meet ADAS requirements. There's also concern about Broadcom's intellectual property, and most important, which car OEMs, other than BMW, are now using Ethernet.

As follow-up to a story EE Times posted last week, we sat down with Timothy Lau, director of automotive at Broadcom.

Beyond BMW

EE Times: Besides BMW, who else in the auto industry is on board with the use of Ethernet in their cars?

Timothy Lau: Based on our direct engagement with automotive OEMs and Tier One's, we see multiple OEMs developing Ethernet network solutions based on BroadR-Reach technology. Beyond the 2014 and 2015 BMW X5, those that are public now include the 2015 Jaguar Land Rover XJ and the 2015 Volkswagen Passat.

EE Times: For what specific applications are they using Ethernet in their models?

Lau: BMW has begun using automotive Ethernet to connect cameras to the optional surround-view system electronic control unit in the BMW X5. The Jaguar Land Rover is using automotive Ethernet in its infotainment network. The Volkswagen Passat is using Ethernet for a parking assistant. The Passat is a good example that illustrates BroadR-Reach is now rapidly moving into mass-market cars.

EE Times: What's prompting a car maker to use BroadR-Reach for parking assist?

Lau: For parking assist, cost is the driving force. For example, car makers are adding several surround-view cameras in addition to a soon-to-be mandated backup camera. Previously, they used analogue cameras, connecting them via LVDS [low-voltage differential signalling] over coaxial cables. Now as they transition from analogue to digital cameras, BroadR-Reach turns out to be a less costly solution. BroadR-reach lets multiple in-vehicle systems simultaneously access information over unshielded single twisted pair cable.

EE Times: I've always thought the infotainment network inside a car would be the first place where BroadR-Reach would move in. But aside from Land Rover, we haven't seen many examples yet. Is that because MOST is too well established a bus in the in-vehicle infotainment network, and automakers are less inclined to replace it?

Lau: Our sense is that automotive OEMs will start embracing automotive Ethernet as more stuff, like heads-up displays, digital amplifiers, rear-seat entertainment, information clusters, etc., begin hanging off the infotainment network. MOST will eventually run out of network bandwidth, because it's based on a ring network. Its network architecture forces newly added clusters to share bandwidth. In contrast, Ethernet is based on a switched network, not a shared network like MOST, so that it can adapt to adding more complex, higher performance systems to the network.

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