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Another vote for automotive Ethernet – now on FPGAs

John Day

John Day

Posted Jan 7, 2012

Last month Broadcom said its BroadR-Reach automotive Ethernet portfolio can reduce connectivity costs by up to 80 percent and cabling weight by as much as 30 percent. NXP Semiconductors licensed BroadR-Reach and intends to create automotive-grade products for the Ethernet physical layer.

NXP noted in its announcement that major car manufacturers are designing with Ethernet as a high-bandwidth, low-cost networking technology complementary to existing in-vehicle network technologies such as CAN, LIN, LVDS and FlexRay. BMW cars supporting Ethernet have been available since 2008.

This week Xilinx, which also supports other automotive networking technologies, announced a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based IEEE 802.1 AVB Ethernet Audio/Video Bridging (EAVB) network implementation. Partnering with Digital Design Corp. (, Xilinx assembled an EAVB development kit said to fully implement emerging IEEE 802.1 AS, QAT and QAV standards – standards that “provide for high-fidelity, low-latency audio and video transport in a completely deterministic fashion over a 100Mb/1Gb Ethernet-based local area network (LAN).”

Xilinx said a single homogenous automotive LAN (Ethernet) can be configured to carry a range of system control as well as audio and video information. Anticipating the deployment of multiple cameras in cars and massive amounts of data to be transmitted and processed, Xilinx is focusing on driver information/assistance and infotainment.

“Drivers and passengers are not only expecting higher resolution displays and graphics quality, but critical information needs to be displayed in real-time as drivers are using it to make instantaneous decisions,” said Scott Keane, visual systems engineer at Digital Design Corp.

Among the more perplexing problems for automotive application developers is how to keep systems up to date, given that consumer electronics technology advances so rapidly. FPGAs like Xilinx’s Spartan-6 offer the advantages of scalable, parallel processing hardware on an FPGA that enables EAVB, according to Kevin Tanaka, Xilinx’s automotive marketing and product planning manager.

“Customers can design now, and as the EAVB standard is tweaked, they can update the IP cores, drop them back onto their design, and keep moving forward. They can also integrate their application IP along with EAVB, so they won’t need separate chips for networking and applications.”

NXP Semiconductors, IEEE 802.1 AVB, Broadcom, automotive Ethernet, EAVB, FPGA, BroadR-Reach, Digital Design Corp.

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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