Every year the Consumer Electronics Show draws greater numbers of automotive firms, as the need to integrate greater functionality into vehicles grows. But as demand expands so too does the pressure on vehicle architectures to cope with the amount of data that is being brought into the vehicle.
Meeting the processing demand isn't simply a case of increasing the power of the onboard silicon, but also the cables that transmit data around the network. And it also throws up questions about the security of onboard systems and how easily they can be hacked.
OEMs and Tier One's are well aware of the issues that surround greater levels of connectivity, and they are challenging suppliers to develop technologies that can meet these demands.
Broadcom is one firm that is developing silicon technology that can transmit and process increasing amounts of data. And others, including NXP, Freescale and traditionally consumer electronics focused companies such as Nvidia and Intel, are doing the same.
Broadcom's automotive director, Tim Lau explains the challenges the industry is facing and the technologies being developed to meet them:
“We're definitely seeing demand for in-vehicle connectivity growing, being able to access phone data or stream data from your tablet through the infotainment network. Connectivity will be one of the driving factors for consumers to make decisions on next-generation vehicles in the coming years.
“Today vehicles use a variety of networking technologies, and typically those technologies are isolated to certain domains in the car. For instance powertrain, body and chassis, and because they are very low bandwidth requirements they are serviced with very low bandwidth legacy technologies such as CANBus, LINBus and Flexray. Infotainment and safety features typically require a higher bandwidth, so MOST is often utilised, some times point to point communication such as low voltage differential signals technology.
“Broadcom believes that all of these networking domains, which today are completely isolated, have significant value if they can be interconnected. One technology that can handle multiple domains and various traffic is Ethernet.
“There are a lot of advantages to being able to connect the infotainment domain to the safety or body domain. Being able to display various camera images throughout the car, being able to gather information from multiple sensors or end points. Being able to make decisions on that data and having the car respond to those decisions. Some of those features could be linked to lane departure warning, object detection, collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control. These are systems that need to process data very quickly, and the legacy technologies, just don't have the bandwidth to accommodate that.