Auto Electronics

IEEE 1394 delivers the bandwidth, performance for new A/V capabilities

Executive Viewpoint

New generations of vehicles are applying digital technology at a rapid pace, as advanced electronics replace mechanical systems for safety, comfort and engine control. One exciting development will bring in-vehicle entertainment to passengers, with video and audio moving from multiple sources to the driver's console, into screens for the front-seat passenger, and onto displays serving rear seats. Passengers in a car, truck or SUV will be able to connect their PCs, DVD players and games to the vehicle network — just as if they were in their living room or office.

Now, add another feature to enhance safety: multiple cameras strategically placed to improve driver visibility, providing details about what's around a moving car. Nissan is demonstrating a test vehicle that combines these entertainment and safety systems, using multimedia-networking technology with multiple channels and high bandwidth. In addition to the front panel and rear seat displays for DVDs, PCs and peripherals, the Nissan multimedia platform incorporates cameras in the front right, front left, and center of the vehicle, another on the left side, with door mirrors right and left, and a rear camera — a total of seven. Images from the cameras can be provided at preset intervals to increase the data available to the driver.

To achieve these capabilities, the vehicle must become a local area network able to serve various component combinations. For example, a driver may want to access two cameras at once, while a DVD is playing on a rear seat display and a data storage device is collecting navigation information. This demands significant network bandwidth — more than 100 Mbps. And to apply a full complement of peripherals and displays at the same time, bandwidth requirements can reach more than 200 Mbps.

This level of bandwidth via copper cabling enables various combinations of in-vehicle entertainment and cameras to be activated at the same time. Using optical fiber, that bandwidth exceeds 250 Mbps, enabling the network to accommodate multiple DVD players and storage drives, along with VGA-quality cameras and displays — operating simultaneously. Content can be delivered in real time or asynchronously.

IEEE 1394 delivers multiple channels for moving audio and video via a single bus, anywhere in the car or truck. 1394 delivers dedicated bandwidth, simple connectivity and a quality of service proven in the computer, peripheral, and consumer electronics markets, including MPEG transfer.

1394's peer-to-peer architecture means there is no central host or computer required to quarterback the network. Its real-time channels are wide, enabling uncompressed audio and video to move from sources to sinks. This eliminates transmission delays or latencies caused by compressing and decompressing data. The high-speed channels enable concurrent transmission of multiple media sources, as required by multimedia applications. The 1394 standard is constantly being enhanced to meet the requirements of the automotive market. The required components are available for use over copper cabling, plastic optical or glass optical — whichever the automakers require — from three different manufacturers. This assures a reliable source of supply as well as competitive pricing. The network will be developed using copper cabling or plastic optical fiber.

The multimedia networks required for in-vehicle entertainment and information are being designed into prototypes, and should appear in production vehicles as early as 2008, delivering concurrent applications to many users simultaneously, with multiple source presentations and customizable content. Japanese and European automakers will be first, followed by U.S. manufacturers. IEEE1394 will deliver QoS, high bandwidth and streaming capabilities to this generation of in-vehicle applications.

About the Author

James Snider is the executive director of the 1394 Trade Association. Before joining the 1394 TA, he was senior marketing advisor for bus solutions at Texas Instruments. He holds an M.B.A in marketing from the University of North Texas, a B.S. in Computer Sciences from North Texas State University, and a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

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