Trusted Ethernet Secures the Connected Car

October 15, 2013  by  


 By Dr. Ali Abaye, Senior Director of Automotive, Broadcom Corporation


Over the past decade, the volume of electronic components in automotive has increased at a dramatic rate.  In fact, analysts predict that by 2025, 100 percent of vehicles will be “connected”1.

With the advent of autonomous vehicles, the evolution of car connectivity has gained sharp momentum. In a recent J.D. Power Study, 82 percent of drivers surveyed expressed an interest in connecting their smartphone to the vehicle infotainment system.

Unfortunately, today’s array of in-vehicle technologies fall short of the advanced networking capabilities needed for a truly connected car. That’s why developers have been clamoring for a faster, scalable, flexible, cost-effective networking protocol. Most importantly, they want a solution that can offer fail-safe protections against malfunctions and malicious cyber-attacks from would-be hackers.

The King of secure connectivity takes to the road

The global standard of Ethernet—for decades, the world’s most popular and reliable networking technology—has a long history of successful and secure deployment in dynamic, ever-changing, plug-and-play technology environments. Ethernet’s proven security features have an added advantage in automotive applications: The devices and configurations of in-car networks are known and predictable, so identifying and protecting against threats can be a finely tuned process.

Fully optimized for in-vehicle applications and capable of delivering bandwidth of up to 100 Mbps, today’s automotive Ethernet solutions run over light, inexpensive wiring that slashes connectivity costs up to 80 percent and reduces cabling weight up to  30 percent.

Automotive Ethernet switch networks rely on point-to-point communication, using bandwidth far more efficiently than “broadcast systems” such as CAN (Controller Area Network) and FlexRay. At the same time, Ethernet is complementary to these and other in-car networking technologies.

 Figure 1 – Evolution of Network Bandwidth

No Other Networking Technology has Kept Pace with Ethernet

Automotive Ethernet excels in controlled flexibility

Automotive Ethernet’s “switching network” also enables a rich set of management controls that precisely direct and limit data traffic.

For instance, VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) allow the creation of multiple, separate broadcast domains on the same physical infrastructure, with data isolation and privacy between VLANs. One VLAN might carry the infotainment system traffic while another carries the traffic camera. Even with a VLAN, multiple devices can communicate with a single source, and can be prevented from communicating with each other for additional isolation.

Ethernet switches also offer a wide range of multicast and unicast filtering options to limit the scope of traffic to the narrow needs and policies of a given flow, Ethernet and it’s higher-layers also support many mature, standards-based, highly secure and widely deployed methods for device authentication, message authentication and message encryption that can protect the network from malicious attack, eavesdropping and installation of non-service-approved devices.

Ultimately, Ethernet can transform the entire vehicle into a data center or digital living room  on wheels that integrates isolated systems into a centralized, secure platform. Multiple stations can simultaneously access and communicate information with a single protocol for data transfer. 

Automotive Ethernet supports IP (Internet Protocol) networking for easy adaption of IP software and applications from consumer and business markets. Little wonder that the global industry consortium known as the Ethernet Alliance is predicting as many as half a billion Ethernet ports in cars by 2020.

If it takes a village, Ethernet has one

When the time comes to test 100 Mbps Automotive Ethernet for security, performance, compliance and compatibility—the lab is experienced and waiting. For the past 25 years, the University of New Hampshire Interoperability Laboratory, the world’s most comprehensive Ethernet testing facility, maintains third-party independence to ensure confidentiality even between competitors.

Momentum is also building to establish 100 Mbps Ethernet as the open, de facto standard for in-vehicle networking. The OPEN (One-Pair Ether-Net) Alliance Special Interest Group that launched in 2011 for this very purpose now boasts approximately 200 of the world’s leading automotive and technology companies. Ethernet’s legacy of massive deployment also ensures its place at the leading edge of scalability as chip designers reach for higher data rates.

 Figure 2 Driving Industry-Wide Adoption of Automotive Ethernet

The OPEN (One-Pair Ether-Net) Alliance Special Interest Group (

What does all this mean to the average car owner?

The unrivaled advantages of 100 Mbps Ethernet are paving a fast track for visionary developers. Just around the corner, features that were once the domain of luxury models will be showing up in the economy class.

Google autonomous vehicle prototypes are already driving themselves around California and Nevada at this very moment and Nissan just announced production of affordable autonomous cars by 2020. How ironic that proven technology such as Ethernet – technology that has been around for years – may end up revolutionizing the connected car, providing the foundation and security features required for a truly secure connected car.



2 JD Power & Associates



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