BMW is no stranger to high-tech computer wizardry in its
vehicles. The German company befuddled BMW owners around the world with the
introduction of the Windows CE-based iDrive driver information center in the
current 7-Series. iDrive, which has been panned by most enthusiasts and auto
journalists, later filtered down to the 5-Series, 3-Series, 6-Series, 1-Series
Since the introduction of iDrive way back in 2002, many
manufacturers have introduced their own control schemes with varying amount of
control knobs and buttons to control everything from basic vehicle functions to
the intensity of interior lighting -- most of which are far more intuitive than
BMW is looking to make another leap forward with the introduction of
Internet Protocol (IP) networking in future automobiles. The company is
using off-the-shelf Ethernet components to replace the vast array of networking
systems included in today's automobiles (CAN, LIN, MOST, Flexray, etc.).
It should come as no surprise that by settling on standard PC
networking technology, greater cost efficiencies can be utilized as well as greater
interoperability between car manufacturers. A wider array of standardized,
off-the-shelf communications gear could lead to faster development cycles for
vehicles and lower overall development costs.
BMW used IP networking to connect engine control units
(ECUs), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) and the dashboard head unit among other
things. BMW's current testing uses the IPv4 standard, but the company hopes to
move to IPv6 in future testing.
"One of our research goals was to verify the real-time
capabilities of IP for safety-critical applications," said IP project
manager Richard Bogenberger. "In order to guarantee the short response
times required, we used features such as QoS and traffic shaping. Our
experiments with prototypes demonstrated, that the real-time behavior far
exceeded the requirements -- even when we ran multimedia applications across
the same network."
BMW has no set time frame for when the first "IP
Car" would be made available to the public, but chances are that we could
see production versions within the next ten years.