Wi-Fi in the car: how to meet the concurrent needs of multiple systems and applications

December 13, 2017 // By Richard Barrett, Cypress Semiconductor
Wi-Fi in the car: how to meet the concurrent needs of multiple systems and applications
People today have become used to living within wireless reach of the internet every minute of every day. At home, at the workplace, or when out on foot or on public transport, the internet is instantly accessible to anyone carrying a smartphone. So why not in the car as well?

One of the challenges facing car manufacturers today is to find the best way to integrate internet connectivity into the vehicle’s user interfaces, such as the Infotainment system, and to provide a fast, robust wireless internet connection for the smart devices that the driver and passengers bring with them into the car.

Many consumers will value, and pay for, the ability to use in-vehicle communication, productivity and entertainment applications. By integrating wireless internet access into the vehicle’s user interfaces, the car maker can also enable the driver to safely use many internet applications and functions while driving.

To do so, car makers will have to master the art of providing reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi® connectivity to multiple users simultaneously, while also supporting system functions that require Wi-Fi bandwidth. This article describes the challenges of managing concurrent wireless connections and applications, and outlines the essential features of hardware architectures which may be used to overcome these problems.

The applications for in-vehicle Wi-Fi networks

Modern vehicle designs today already offer Bluetooth® wireless connectivity as a standard feature for hands-free calling and audio music streaming from brought in mobile phones, as well as data services for phone book access, messaging and vehicle information uploads.

But for functions that require wireless internet connectivity between devices and a router or access point, Wi-Fi is the universally accepted standard technology, and the primary wireless technology under consideration for this role in cars. To provide internet connectivity to multiple end user devices, vehicle manufacturers are integrating LTE (mobile phone network) modems to provide a pipe to the internet, and a Wi-Fi access point for smart devices.

On the highway, users’ internet traffic will be routed via the LTE modem. In some locations, such as shopping mall car parks (parking lots) or in city centres, the in-vehicle Wi-Fi can connect to the internet via public Wi-Fi access points rather than via the LTE modem. Just as in mobile phones, Wi-Fi offloading of the LTE network can reduce total subscription costs and help manage cellular traffic.

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