Addressing the Challenges of In-Vehicle Connectivity

Is it time to look beyond traditional automotive networks?

Connectivity has become a household name in the automotive sector. The ability to connect systems and people—whether within the car or between the car and the world—is an expected feature going forward. If, at first, such connectivity—the rear camera when parking, the kids’ screen in the backseat—was “nice-to-have,” now it is a given, whether for infotainment or telematics/Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).

Figure 1: Automotive Connectivity Wish List

Figure 1: Automotive Connectivity Wish List

A connected car is any vehicle where systems are connected either to other systems and/or devices in the car, or outside the car, including but not limited to: audio and video; smartphone and apps; collision/parking sensors; diagnostic and firmware upgrade equipment; GPS and navigation systems; smart antennas. Although the buzz usually relates to the eventual autonomous, or driverless, car, there is plenty that is achieved with a connected car even when the driver retains 100 percent control of the car.

Whether our connected cars will simply provide us with, well, connected systems, or drive themselves, the underlying infrastructure enabling this connectivity must be available, reliable and deliver the performance expected. This infrastructure is at the core of the challenges faced today by in-vehicle connectivity.

Automotive Connectivity Wish List

Several elements must be taken into consideration when talking about the connected car infrastructure. Isolated, these do not mean much and can be achieved by different means. The challenge is to look at all of them as a whole and provide a solution that brings a suitable response to each, without jeopardizing overall connectivity (Figure 1).

  • Bandwidth Needs: High bandwidth is essential to deliver the necessary features in the connected car: Ultra-high-definition (UHD) video and audio (cameras, DVDs, infotainment), multi-Gig data (smart antennas, vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity, controls, USB, Electronic Control Units [ECUs] to ECU connectivity, firmware updates), and more. When there is not enough bandwidth, transmission quality suffers, and not all features may be delivered.
  • Reliability: Temperature changes, noise, different systems (including external devices), cable aging, and more affect the car. An efficient connectivity infrastructure must be able to adapt itself to this ever-changing environment without affecting performance.
  • Cabling Infrastructure: Cable infrastructure is a major cost, space, and weight component in a car. However, a lower grade cable may not be able to withstand and handle the noisy, EMC-prone car environment, affecting quality of transmission.
  • Networking: Networking significantly simplifies the connectivity complexity in the car, through multistreaming, convergence, and daisy-chaining. It allows the different domains and islands in the car—such as ADAS and infotainment—to be better connected, regarding design and end-user experience.
  • Latency and Synchronization: Delayed transmission of content can be annoying at best and dangerous at worst. Latency directly impacts the quality of experience and the reliance drivers put on the system. Latency is determined by bandwidth and content throughput, distance of transmission, and noise (such as EMC, EMI), among other factors.
  • Design Simplicity: Design is a broad concept that encompass many elements: software, configuration, cabling installation and grounding, compatibility (forward and backward), high-speed physical layer to comply with connectivity needs. A simpler design translates into lower costs, less man hours, easier maintenance.
  • Convergence: Converging several features over the same infrastructure saves valuable space and effort. The challenge is to make sure such convergence does not compromise performance or generate unnecessary latency. Bandwidth optimization is critical to make sure such convergence brings positive results.
  • Standardization: The process which guarantees that products and technologies adhere to defined technical standards is a must in the automotive sector, where car manufacturers rely on several different suppliers for parts and systems. A standard connectivity system is necessary for interoperability, compatibility, and reliability.

How can the industry address these challenges?

Connecting the Connected Car

To reach the level of connectivity we expect from our connected cars, the traditional automotive networks—such as CAN, CAN-FD, LIN, MOST or FlexRay—do not deliver. The increased number of sensors and ECUs expected calls for high-bandwidth connections and scalable and flexible architectures.

To address some of these issues, 100Mbps Ethernet was introduced into the automotive sector in 2008 to deliver high-throughput connectivity. Automotive Ethernet added automotive grade and lightweight UTP wire harness, and thus opened great potential for the sector. SerDes—or Serializer Deserializer—is another technology eventually introduced to the sector to address the issues of connectivity. SerDes modifies data transmission from parallel input towards serial input, and then back to parallel on the other side, for higher transfer speeds.

However, there is one technology that combines the benefits of both Automotive Ethernet and SerDes for the ultimate in-vehicle connectivity solution.

That technology is HDBaseT Automotive.

What is HDBaseT Automotive?

The original HDBaseT technology was introduced in 2010 to address the challenges of audiovisual (AV) connectivity—offices, homes, schools and more, where high quality performance is a must. It quickly became an industry standard and was adapted by all major Pro-AV vendors. With more than 180 members, the organization is responsible for defining, advancing, and promoting the HDBaseT standard.

As a concept, it was developed to transmit high-throughput content over low-cost, ubiquitous cabling. HDBaseT is resilient and able to handle noisy environments, which led to its adoption also in other sectors, such the industrial market and medical sector. The same principles that make HDBaseT the best choice in these sectors also apply to HDBaseT Automotive.

Figure 2: HDBaseT Automotive

Figure 2: HDBaseT Automotive

HDBaseT Automotive is a derivative of the original HDBaseT standard, as defined by the HDBaseT Alliance. The HDBaseT Alliance is a not-for-profit organization tasked with advancing and promoting HDBaseT technology.

HDBaseT Automotive combines the best of existing technologies in one, simple solution for in-vehicle connectivity. HDBaseT is the only technology that enables the transmission of up to 6Gbps of video and data, with native networking capabilities over 15m (50ft) of a single unshielded twisted-pair (UTP) cable, or any other media, such as STP, HSD, coaxial and fiber (Figure 2).

HDBaseT is able to handle EMC and noisy environment and adapt to the different conditions in question.

Automotive Ethernet, SerDes and HDBaseT Automotive can be used to provide high-throughput network connectivity in the car. However, when one looks at specific elements—high-speed transmission, infrastructure and design simplicity, and more—HDBaseT Automotive has significant advantages over existing technologies.

The additional bandwidth supported as well as the native application interfaces are crucial to enable uncompromising high-end streaming applications while meeting EMC requirements. In addition, control-oriented application interfaces are supported to provide additional benefits. All this over the same inexpensive and lightweight UTP wire harness with bandwidth up to 6 Gbps, with near-zero latency.

The HDBaseT Automotive revolution is about to start. By converging several features and optimizing transmission of high-throughput content over a simple 15m/50ft UTP cable, the technology delivers numerous benefits. The connected car becomes increasingly simpler and more real once the underlying infrastructure can deliver the bandwidth, performance, and reliability desired. With the tunnelling of up to 6Gbps of audio and video, data, Ethernet, controls, USB, and power over an UTP cable, HDBaseT Automotive is unique in the delivery of the ultimate connected driving experience.

Micha-RislingMicha Risling is Sr. Vice President for Marketing & Business Development and Head of the Automotive Business Unit, Valens, and Chair of the Marketing Committee of the HDBaseT Alliance. As Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Valens, Risling leads the company’s marketing and business development activities in several verticals, and heads the company’s automotive business unit. Risling brings 20 years of expertise in marketing and R&D executive roles in established NASDAQ and startup companies, plus vast experience in the global mobile and telecommunications industry. Over his tenure at Valens, Risling has established the company’s reputation as a leader in the digital connectivity space. Risling also holds the position of Head of the HDBaseT Alliance’s Marketing Committee, where he is responsible for the organization’s strategy and marketing activities.

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