vehicles contain hundreds of circuits, sensors, and many other electrical
components. Communication is needed among the many circuits and
functions of the vehicle. For example, when the driver presses the
headlights switch on the dashboard, the headlights react. For this
to occur, communication is needed between the dashboard switch and
the front of the vehicle. In current vehicle systems this type of
communication is handled via a dedicated wire through point-to-point
connections. If all possible combinations of switches, sensors,
motors, and other electrical devices in fully featured vehicles
are accumulated, the resulting number of connections and dedicated
wiring is enormous. Networking provides a more efficient method
for today's complex in-vehicle communications.
networking, also known as multiplexing, is a method for transferring
data among distributed electronic modules via a serial data bus.
Without serial networking, inter-module communication requires dedicated,
point-to-point wiring resulting in bulky, expensive, complex, and
difficult to install wiring harnesses. Applying a serial data bus
reduces the number of wires by combining the signals on a single
wire through time division multiplexing. Information is sent to
individual control modules that control each function, such as anti-lock
braking, turn ignals, and dashboard displays (see figure 1).
As the electrical
content of today's vehicles continues to increase the need for networking
is even more evident. For example, some high-end luxury cars contain
more than three miles and nearly 200 pounds of wiring. The resulting
number of connectors creates a reliability nightmare.
networking provides many system-level benefits, many of which are
only beginning to be realized.
" A decreased number of dedicated wires is required for each
function, and thus reduces the size of the wiring harness. System
cost, weight, reliability, serviceability, and installation are
" Common sensor data, such as vehicle speed, engine temperature,
etc. are available on the network, so data can be shared, thus eliminating
the need for redundant sensors.
" Networking allows greater vehicle content flexibility because
functions can be added through software changes. Existing systems
require an additional module or additional I/O pins for each function
" Car manufacturers are discovering new features that are enabled
by networking. For example, the 1996 Lincoln Continental's Memory
Profile System stores each driver's preference for ride firmness,
seat positions, steering assist effort, mirror positions, and even
radio station presets.
networking to expand into higher volume economy class vehicles,
the overall system benefits need to outweigh the costs. Standardized
protocols will enable this expansion. Automotive manufacturers and
various automotive industry standards organizations have been working
for many years to develop standards for in-vehicle networking. Many
standards such as VAN, ABUS, CAN, and SAE J1850 have been developed,
but SAE J1850 and CAN 2.0 (Controller Area Network) are the predominant
The early days
of networking involved proprietary serial buses using generic UART
(Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter) or custom devices.
This was acceptable in the US because the Big Three (Ford, GM, Chrysler)
were vertically integrated and were not highly dependent on external
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