The OPEN alliance says ethernet is a cost-effective automotive networking technology (Photo: NXP)

Carmakers BMW and Hyundai have teamed up with Broadcom, NXP Semiconductors, Freescale and Harman to make ethernet the computer networking technology of choice inside the car.

The move comes as the auto industry is preparing for new and more data-heavy applications for tomorrow's cars. Key among these are camera-based safety and security features, but these are just one example of a range of new systems entering cars. Today's in-car networks most often don't provide the bandwidth needed to cope with the increased data traffic flows resulting from them.

A key goal of the new alliance, which is called OPEN (one-pair-ethernet), is to establish chipmaker Broadcom's BroadR-Reach technology as an open standard. The technology was developed specifically to provide a lower cost connectivity option for the auto industry.

OPEN says automakers are looking for networking technology that can handle high-bandwith applications in a cost-effective way. Broadcom's BroadR-Reach technology can operate over single unshielded twisted pair (UTP) cabling, wich is less expensive and weighs less than shielded cable.

NXP, a Netherlands-baseds semiconductor group, said it wouldbe the first supplier to license Broadcom's BroadR-Reach ethernet technology for in-vehicle networking. The move makes it easier for automakers to design networks at lower cost than would be feasible with existing in-vehicle technologies such as CAN, LIN, LVDS and FlexRay, NXP said. It noted that BMW cars supporting Ethernet have been on the market since 2008.

NXP said ethernet is attractive because it is a globally recognized standard in IP-based networking. That makes it easier to adapt IP software and applications from the consumer and business markets for automotive use, the company said. And that could speed the development of connected vehicles.

"BroadR-Reach ethernet technology addresses the high bandwidth functionality the automotive market is asking for," said Lars Reger, vice president strategy & new business automotive at NXP.

Ali Abaye, a senior product marketing executive at Broadcom, said: "Licensing BroadR-Reach to other semiconductor suppliers will encourage wide-scale adoption of 100 Mbps Ethernet connectivity as the standard in automotive networking applications.”

Higher-bandwidth connectivity will address customers' growing demand for seamlessly integrated information, entertainment and safety features in the car, said premium infotainment systems maker Harman. "Ethernet will provide the highest quality streaming audio-visual experience and encourage interoperability of networked audio-visual devices," said Sachin Lawande, Harman's chief technology officer.

The OPEN alliance will be expanded with new members in coming years. Initially, the group will focus on establishing interoperability requirements, third-party testing, certification procedures and the setting of data rate specification requirements.

NXPsaid its first product samples using ethernet technology will be available in 2013.