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Vitesse talks Ethernet in connected cars

Vitesse_MNuss_093_5x7In this Q&A session, Vitesse Semiconductor CTO Martin Nuss discusses connected cars and Ethernet’s role in ensuring their functionality and security.

RCR Wireless News: Connected car is a fairly broad term. What exactly does it mean?

Martin Nuss: While the “connected car” concept has been around for quite some time, it historically focused on optimizing the car’s internal functions and on-board diagnostics. Today, it really includes anything an LTE connection can enable within the car to improve the in-car experience, such as the infotainment system, sensors and cameras for parking assistance and collision avoidance, navigation, and eventually, driving autonomy. The important distinction is that we’re talking about the car’s connection to the outside world, not the driver and/or passengers. This new generation of intelligent vehicles is really reflective of the larger “Internet of Things” trend, where we reap the most economic benefits by connecting more and more things to each other and the cloud.

RCRWN: Frost and Sullivan forecasts that by 2020, most cars will have 50 to 60 Ethernet ports, with premium cars having closer to 100 ports, and entry-level cars up to 10 ports. What’s driving the automotive industry’s push toward Ethernet? And why now?

MN: All the major car manufacturers are advocating Ethernet as the main connectivity technology to use as the car’s network backbone, replacing the various legacy and semi-proprietary protocols used within vehicles. Why Ethernet? It’s all about affordable, scalable high-bandwidth connectivity in the car.

Ethernet delivers scalability in speed, bandwidth and number of nodes – all of which are limiting factors for legacy automotive protocols where the capacity, latency and number of nodes that can be connected in a bus-based system are simply inadequate to handle today’s in-car connectivity.

Cars are becoming inherently more complex with a growing number of sensors, all with high bandwidth requirements that need to be networked so they can talk to each other. Wiring becomes an issue, with each proprietary standard potentially requiring its own wire for every component it talks to. Multiplying the number of components adds more weight and cost to the wiring harness, which today is the third-highest car element in both weight and cost. Ethernets significant benefits include performance, cost, interoperability, upgradability and time-to-market.

RCRWN: What technologies are key in enabling connected cars and how do you see them co-existing? 

MN: There are two core technologies that will be critical to enabling connected cars:

  • The new two-wire Ethernet PHYs developed as part of the IEEE 802.3 100Base-T1 and 1000Base-T1 standards; and IEEE 802.1tsn “deterministic Ethernet” standardization.

With the two-wire, or single twisted pair, Ethernet PHYs, multiple in-car systems – such as on-board diagnostics, advanced driver assist and infotainment – will be able to communicate with the car simultaneously via one cable. This holds potential for significant OEM cost savings by:

  • Enabling in-car systems to operate on the same network backbone, thus reducing cabling costs up to 80%; and reducing the weight of the cabling itself.

The second core technology is Ethernet determinism, which is vital to real-time applications. This will allow networks to guarantee that packets will be delivered and accepted by mission-critical devices within strict time parameters. This is particularly true for advanced safety systems in the car, such as collision avoidance, advanced driver assist and antilock brakes. Time-sensitive networking allows data packets to be sent out at a certain time or within a specific timeframe. Deterministic Ethernet will be key to the next generation of intelligent vehicles.

RCRWN: What do you believe are the key challenges currently facing the connected car industry in order to achieve the vision for this topic?

MN: One of the main challenges we see facing the connected car industry is that of system reliability. With the car essentially becoming a highly complex, Ethernet network, manufacturers will need highly reliable systems, paying special attention to:

  • High availability, 99.999% or five-9s of uptime.
  • Long component lifetime.
  • Low defect rate.
  • Industrial-temperature grade, or ability to operate under extreme temperature conditions.

RCRWN: There’s a lot of talk about security with connected cars. How do you see the industry solving these challenges?

MN: Security is clearly a high priority within the automotive industry, with many discussions focused on data security within the connected car and vulnerabilities to hacker attacks. In fact, General Motors just last fall named a cyber security chief, highlighting the growing importance of this issue in the industry.

From the Ethernet perspective, however, this is not simply about packet encryption. We will need to ensure that none of the packets have been tampered with. In any Ethernet network, automotive or otherwise, the data, control and management plans must all three be secured. This means that the packets, components (or devices) and links need to be authenticated and authorized to access certain systems and controls. They also need to have traceability, or accounting.

Encryption, along with authentication, authorization and accounting, is nothing new for Ethernet. The best technology to accomplish this within Ethernet networks is IEEE 802.1AE MACsec, combined with IEEE 802.1x KeySec. With Ethernet as the connected car backbone, these security measures protect from intrusions such as pervasive monitoring, masquerading (MAC address spoofing) and other cyber attacks.

RCRWN: Does the use of Ethernet technology help secure the connected car or make it more vulnerable?

MN: Security for the connected car is no longer just about the physical protection of the car itself, the driver and passengers. Now we factor in digital safety, data privacy and security protection against malicious intrusions and cyber attacks, which incidentally, holds true for any connected “thing” in the IoT. Security will be even more paramount for driverless or autonomous cars, since connectivity and software will figure predominantly for the vehicle’s safe operation.

This vulnerability in the connected car would exist with or without Ethernet, simply due to the fact that it’s becoming another networked endpoint in the ever-expanding IoT. That said, using Ethernet as the car’s network backbone can absolutely help secure it. How? Standards already exist for securing Ethernet connections that can readily meet the security requirements in an IoT environment: the MACsec protocol strong 256-bit encryption defined in the IEEE 802.1AE standard, combined with the KeySec 802.1x standard that provides the authentication, authorization and accounting capabilities mentioned above.

Bottom line – would I feel safe in an Ethernet-networked car? Absolutely. And in fact, I’m rather looking forward to it.

Martin Nuss is VP, technology and strategy, and CTO at Vitesse Semiconductor. Nuss has over 25 years of technical and management experience and is a recognized industry expert in Ethernet technology including timing and synchronization for public and private communications networks. Nuss serves on the board of directors for the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions and is a fellow of the Optical Society of America and an IEEE member. He holds a doctorate in applied physics from the Technical University in Munich, Germany.

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Claudia Bacco, Managing Director – EMEA for RCR Wireless News, has spent her entire career in telecom, IT and security. Having experience as an operator, software and hardware vendor and as a well-known industry analyst, she has many opinions on the market. She’ll be sharing those opinions along with ongoing trend analysis for RCR Wireless News.

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