Communication technologies are being developed presently in order to connect devices with one another. Within this connected-devices sphere, connected cars are something that all major car manufacturers are looking into. For the development of connected car technologies, as well as other inter-device communication technologies, semiconductors and microchips are the most essential bit of hardware required. Broadcom is a leading provider of semiconductor solutions for wired and wireless communications, which ships about two million chips a day. Ravi Manik, Director – Business Development, Broadcom Semiconductor India Pvt Ltd told us about the various communication technologies around connected vehicles, wired and wireless technologies and their future in the automotive segment.
The company offers diverse communication technologies covering every area of wired and wireless communication, Manik said. He also noted that automotive Ethernet is the safest technology for connected cars due to the fact that the technology is hard-wired into the car.
Broadcom has been developing solutions for the automotive industry from around 2007, but the announcement for the specially-designed automotive Ethernet chip was made in 2010. The 2013 model year of BMW's X5 SUV was the first vehicle to feature this automotive Ethernet wired technology, Manik noted. Currently, a few other companies have also incorporated this technology into their global models, all of which are considered premium in India.
Analysts are predicting that 100 % of vehicles will have some form of connectivity by 2025, which also makes it the fastest growing segment for the chip industry, Manik said. The segment will show a CAGR of about 10.8 % till 2018, analysts predict.
In the Indian scenario, communication technologies and connected vehicle technologies can be adopted for a separate category of applications. Automotive Ethernet chips can be used for telematics applications like tracking vehicles, following traffic information, as well as creating car hotspots. But in India the technology is still only available in the luxury segment, and a large amount of awareness around the technology needs to be created, Manik noted.
A number of enhancements have been made to regular Ethernet to make it usable in automotive applications. The automotive Ethernet runs along a single pair of cable, which is unshielded, with a cheaper and lighter connector, and is capable of transmitting at speeds of 100 Mbps, noted Manik. This makes it a lightweight, low cost, and high speed technology, which has a switch network that is scalable and has a high throughput.
The first application that this chip was used for is the 360° view, or bird's view of the car, which is used for parking assistance and other advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The technology takes high resolution images and processes them for more ADAS applications, thus requiring higher bandwidth. The technology can also support the connection of entertainment systems for storage, streaming and connectivity of more screens, mainly due the higher speeds offered. Additionally, the chip has always supported on-board diagnostics (OBD), which is now assisted further by the efficiency of the Ethernet chip.
Broadcom offers wireless communication technologies in the form of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, global positioning system (GPS), near field communications (NFC) and set top boxes, among others. But within the automotive segment, technologies like NFC, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are trending above others. Another upcoming application that is being looked into by a number of customers is wireless charging.
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At the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Broadcom unveiled the 2nd-gen Ethernet technology, which extends Ethernet applications to telematics, shark fin antennas and instrumentation cluster applications. The new BroadR-Reach automotive Ethernet chips are also equipped with advanced security features, making them unsusceptible to cyber threats. The new package has a more compact design, which consumes lesser power and is cheaper to make than the previous generation. These aspects would help in the miniaturisation of systems and enable OEMs to use them in more products, even on mass segment models.
Manik said future technologies will be developed based on consumer-driven trends and preferences, as well as OEMs driving technologies and markets. Broadcom is looking at focusing on marketing the whole range of communication technologies, as the expectation of cars in the future will be very different. The level of connectivity in a vehicle is expected to be the main criteria for future generations of car buyers, Manik concluded.
Text: Naveen Arul