Real-time Ethernet for cars

Real-time Ethernet for cars

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

In the joint research project CeCaS, Fraunhofer researchers are working on a systems architecture based on the idea of managing all electronic components centrally from one computer platform

Imagine a car with components that are controlled from a central supercomputing platform instead of by dozens of intricately interconnected computer systems; you could easily install updates via Wi-Fi without going to a mechanic, and integrate new functions as needed. This is the vision that the Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems IPMS and partners from the automotive industry are working toward as part of a joint research project, CeCaS (Central Car Server — Supercomputing for Automotive). The goal is to remodel the computer architecture used in cars from the ground up so that it is fit to meet the high demands associated with automated, connected vehicles. The idea is to turn cars into supercomputers on wheels, where the components can communicate with each other in real time. The German federal government is supporting the project as part of its initiative for funding research on electronics and software development methods for the digitalization of automobility (MANNHEIM).

The Dresden-based Fraunhofer researchers are focusing on Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) for their project. In order to be able to harness this technology, the team is further developing its tried-and-tested functional blocks for semiconductors, called IP cores. The aim is to equip the Ethernet-based network technology with real-time capabilities while making it robust and extremely reliable in all situations. “TSN achieves this combination of real-time capability and reliability through means such as using a consistent system time for all relevant control devices, using a smart system for managing process queues and by prioritizing tasks,” explains says Dr. Frank Deicke, head of Data Communication and Computing. This means commands that go to the brake system are, of course, assigned a higher priority than commands being sent to the air conditioning. Despite the enormous volume of data that a vehicle generates every second, the majority of which needs to be processed in real time, CeCaS systems are robust and extremely reliable.

Ethernet also brings other advantages to the project. “The fundamental advantage of Ethernet is that it is both very flexible and highly scalable. When combined with our IP cores, this technology can easily be adapted for use with vehicles of different sizes, performance categories and functions,” says Dr. Deicke.

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