Interface gets cars out of a fix

11 September 2009

Ethernet tranciever
Ethernet tranciever

New chip shortens car repair times with reliable, high-speed automotive interface

SMSC has launched the LAN88710 MII/RMII 10/100 Ethernet Transceiver, its second TrueAuto Ethernet solution. This device is designed specifically to meet the high reliability standards required by automotive applications such as on-board diagnostics or fast software download interfaces for central gateway and telematics modules, navigation systems, radio head units and connectivity devices.

The LAN88710 transceiver offers increased access speed for diagnostics and software downloads over traditionally slower speed interfaces typically used to connect to the vehicle today. When used within today's complex vehicle electrical systems, which are packed full with user content, the LAN88710 transceiver can help diagnose issues faster and lower software maintenance time so repairs are completed more quickly and cost less.

The TrueAuto LAN88710 transceiver has been specifically designed, validated, qualified, characterised and manufactured for the high reliability requirements of the car. The device provides a simple, digital interface via the MII standard (IEEE 802.3u) to a typical MAC layer integrated within an embedded microcontroller. Built into an embedded device within the car, the chip can function as a network branch to the outside world, connecting the car to a personal computer, diagnostic tool or to a complex Ethernet network in the repair shop.

The size of embedded program and data memories in today's modern cars is growing rapidly. For example, the newly released BMW 7 Series has more than one Gbyte of memory while the previous model had just short of 100 Mbytes of memory. While repair shops usually diagnose and fix problems, they also have the ability to update the software and data embedded in various control devices inside the car. Access into the car to obtain this valuable information is through the On Board Diagnostics (OBD) connector. This standardised connector today not only provides a slow communication interface but updating software through this interface can takes hours, which significantly increases both repair times and cost. As a result, many car companies are working on an upgrade of the OBD connector to provide the car with a high-performance data interface for diagnostics and software downloads - Ethernet. The initiative is expected to lead to a new ISO/SAE standard that mandates this interface as part of the OBD connector.

Ethernet is a widely used networking technology in the repair shop IT infrastructure. Its broad proliferation, high-bandwidth and optimized communication for bursts or packets of information make it also an excellent connectivity solution to the automobile. It can connect the external Ethernet-based infrastructure of the repair shop to a vehicle in a repair bay to then move large amounts of diagnostic information and software data seamlessly between the two.

"Transferring data between the diagnostics bay and the car is time consuming and often spotty when using today's traditional diagnostics interface," said Dr. Christian Thiel, Vice President and General Manager of SMSC's Automotive Information Systems group. "SMSC's automotive Ethernet transceiver delivers high data speed at the reliability grade that our automotive customers expect."

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