The Future of Industrial Networking for Autonomous Vehicles
A New Type of Industrial Vehicles Today, a new type of vehicle is making its mark on the industrial and commercial industries with Industrialized Autonomous Vehicles (IAVs). These highly sophisticated, application driven autonomous vehicles are fully equipped with the latest in planning, perception and control technologies allowing them to perform labor-intensive tasks for hours-on-end with limited to no human interaction.
At the center of these new technological wonders are communications, more specifically data processing. Autonomous vehicles rely heavily on lidars, radars, camera systems and their computational abilities to steer and maneuver around obstacles in their drive path. IAVs can also add an extra layer of complexity due to their secondary sub-systems which often include proprietary software applications, robotics, sensing and machine technologies.
As more technology is extended to IAVs, the ability to deliver data from an endpoint to a Central Processing Unit (CPU), or between CPUs, becomes critical. The internal infrastructure needed to carry the large amount of data for these intricate systems needs to be robust, redundant, offer low-latency, and scalability while being flexible enough to transport different protocols found within internal automotive networks.
For these reasons, major manufactures and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) partners are turning to industrial networking solutions to manage their communication needs. Industrial strength networking components offer the reliability needed for advanced communication and data management tools for complex internal vehicle networks, while still providing industrial strength protections against harsh environments often found in industrial settings.
In-Vehicle Networking Technologies Bus Networks
In its basic form, internal vehicle networks are distributed as two wire bus communication networks. These simple networks are interconnected in a series style topology with Electronic Control Units (ECU) and other microprocessors configured to transmit and receive data. Modern industrial vehicles may have approximately 60+ ECUs that perform various functions including controlling door-locks, sunroofs, and management such as heating & cooling systems.
Bus networks are typically used for in-vehicle communication protocols with the Controller Area Network (CAN) being the most common. CAN bus is a lightweight multi-master serial protocol that combines multiple ECUs together, forming a backbone which allows for centralized communications. The style of networking is ideal for critical systems such as Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS), throttle and steering controls.
Beside CAN, there are several other bus protocols used in vehicle communications. Each protocol follows a version of the International Organization for Standards (ISO 11898 and ISO 8802) designated for roadside vehicles. Each protocol also has its own bandwidth limitation and special purpose use.
Some of the more popular bus protocols are as follows:
● Local Interconnect Network (LIN): Primarily used in small motor applications such as door mirrors, sunroof controls and seat positioning systems.
● SAE J1939: Designed for heavy machinery, tractors, agriculture and forestry.
● Controller Area Network (CAN): The most common communication system for vehicle intercommunication. CAN allows multiple microcontrollers and Electronic Control Units (ECUs) to communicate with each other in real time.
● Controller Area Network Flexible Data-Range (CAN FD): Extended version of the CAN protocol. Allows larger data transmissions with increasing payloads from 8bit to 64bit.
● Flex Ray: Uses two independent data channels for fault-tolerance.
● Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST): Used for infotainment, multimedia network technology, and can be configured in a daisy chain or ring topology.
Beyond the Bus
The Evolution of Ethernet in Automotive Communications
Bus technologies have been critical for in-vehicle communications. However, as the automotive industry evolved, and emerging technologies were beginning to make their way into newer vehicles, bus systems were inadequate and couldn’t support the bandwidth requirements for these new technologies. A protocol was needed that could handle the data being generated from the large number of connected ECU’s while still providing room for growth and scalability for future technologies. Ethernet would be the one to take its place.
Ethernet provided the bandwidth needed for applications such as lidar, radar, GPS, emergency braking detection, collision warning, and Vehicle-to-Everything (V2X) technologies, and many more. The flexibility of Ethernet plus its ability to scale for data transmissions over 1Mb, to 1GB, to 10G, and beyond made it an ideal choice for the vehicle industry. Ethernet also has a proven track record of success in enterprise, as well as industrial networking environments using various protocols and industry standards for managing data.
Advantages of Ethernet
Another major advantage of Ethernet is its extreme flexibility of how it can be configured in various ways. It also supports a wide variety of data management tools which can be configured to optimize flow data inside of networks. Some typical data management configurations include:
● Topologies: Ethernet can be configured in a star, mesh, ring, bus, or tree topology to support the flow of traffic and provide redundancy for vehicle networks.
● Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN): VLANs use identifiers known as 802.1q tags to segment a network into small subnetworks or virtual LAN segments. These VLANs are then used to logically group physically connected or physically separated network devices into smaller subnetworks.
● Quality of Service (QoS): QoS is used to manage data traffic and ensure the performance of critical applications by setting prioritization specific high-performance applications.
Open Systems Interconnections (OSI) Model
The 7 Layers of OSI
Standard Ethernet operates using Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) to process data. However, before the TCP/IP protocol was adopted in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the 7 layer network stack was used as the protocol standard. Today when talking about the Ethernet protocol, the OSI model is still used.
● Layer 1- Physical: The physical layer defines the physical connection to the network. This can range from cable types, radio frequency link (802.11wireless specifications) pin layout, voltage and connectors.
● Layer 2- Data Link: The data link layer provides synchronization and error correction from the physical layer. There are also two sublayers - Media Access Control (MAC) and Logical Link Control (LLC). A majority of switches operate at this level including ECUs, and microprocessors.
Bus technologies including CAN, LIN etc. operate at the layer 1 and 2 level of the IOS model. ● Layer 3- Network: The network layer performs network IP routing functions.
● Layer 4- Transport: The transport layer provides data transfer protocols such as a TCP/UDP connection and connectionless communications.
● Layer 5- Session Layer: The session layer establishes, manages, and terminates the connections between cooperating applications.
● Layer 6- Presentation: The presentation layer defines data compression and encryption.
● Layer 7- Application: The application layer specifies how application programs access the network such as email, web browsers and games.
Industrial Ethernet Applications
While Ethernet has improved the driver experience for commercial and passenger vehicles, the technology has opened the doors for tremendous growth in industrial applications. The combination of technologies such as Ethernet, robotics, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a game changer for autonomous vehicles, specifically industrial autonomous vehicles. Today’s IAVs take the best pieces of technology and add additional layers of functionality not typically found in automobiles. They’re customized machines designed for a specific purpose or a specific industry. These machines can include robotic arms, liftgates, hydraulic platforms, cutting tools and can be manipulated by remote pilots from the other side of the world. IAVs are commonly found on roadways but also in farms, mines, large scale construction sites and locations that can be too hazardous for humans to safely perform duties. In these cases, the standard technology that powers Autonomous Vehicles (AV) are critical. The same technology that makes AVs operate, gives IAV the power to function at a critical level, keeping up with our modernizing world.
A Case Study
This case study highlights Antaira's solutions in action.
The agriculture industry, specifically for strawberries has seen an increase in popularity as more people make healthier lifestyle choices with their diet. As a result, health-conscious consumers are wanting to enjoy more strawberries on a regular basis rather than the short time-frame the fruit is normally in season.
Rising costs of fruit production along with labor shortages have left many strawberry farmers struggling to keep up with demands.
Through the use of agricultural robotics, machine vision, advanced AI technologies and Antaira’s series of industrial managed Ethernet switches, the agricultural machine manufacturer was able to develop a specialized robotic strawberry harvester that used robotic arms to perform the task of delicately picking ripe strawberries. This has allowed for strawberry farmers to keep up with the consumer demands, while overcoming the challenges of raising production prices and labor shortages.
As construction of the automated harvester began, engineers knew that internal data communications were going to play a critical role in the strawberry picking process. Therefore, they decided on an industrial networking switch from a major manufacturer to handle the data traffic. However, during the first phases of testing, the Ethernet switch failed to withstand the agricultural environment and needed to be replaced several times; the strawberry fields were just too demanding for the switch. At that point, the manufacturer looked to Antaira to help resolve its connectivity crisis.
Initially, Antaira supplied the LMX-1802G-M12-10G-SFP-67(-24)(-T) industrial Ethernet switch. That unit offered a software management suite that allowed for dynamic IP addressing and data separation via Virtual LANs (VLANs). It also came equipped with M12 screw-tight connectors ensuring a tight robust connection to combat long hours of intense vibrations. The IP67 standard of the unit ensured water-tight protection against mud, dirt, dust, debris, and the extended temperature rating allowed for uninterrupted communication in severe weather conditions. The unit also offered 16 gigabit ports with 2 x 10 gigabit fiber ports for backbone connectivity. The industrial M12 switch was ideal for the internal communication portion of the switch.
However, further testing uncovered the need for a secondary industrial switch to manage the picking aspect of the automated harvester. The harvester was equipped with high-definition cameras for vision inspection and robotic arm sensors that needed a way to communicate with engineers over Ethernet. Also, the strawberry harvester needed a way to handle the same data traffic requirements as the first industrial managed switch, specifically, with Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) Option 82, Quality of Service (QoS) to ensure fault tolerance and redundancy, security, as well as Virtual LAN management. Antaira then offered the LMP1802G-M12-10G-SFP-67(-24)(-T) industrial switch which showcased the same reliability factors as the LMX-1802G-M12-10G-SFP-67(-24)(-T) and allowed for the same software management suite. However, this new version of the M12 Ethernet switch came with an upgrade by having 30W of power at each interface.
Antaira’s full line of industrial switches allowed for the manufacturer to move forward with the final stages of completing the automated strawberry harvesters. The autonomous harvesters now have cutting-edge industrial networking technologies in place and if needed, customized solutions can be created.
The Future of Industrial Autonomous Vehicles
The future of IAVs will be an exciting one. Technologies such as 5G and high-speed wireless will open doors for new age applications. For passenger and commercial vehicles, we will see an onslaught of augmented and virtual reality applications giving us real-time notifications on road conditions and weather data.
For the industrial industry, we will begin to see the emergence of autonomous ecosystems. These ecosystems will provide a new framework of cloud-based applications driving fully autonomous “self-aware” vehicles, robotics, and various other automated machines. This new level of intelligence will give IAVs the abilities to make their own decision, based on data gathered from their counterparts, as they move throughout their day.
Autonomous vehicles are an intricate system of networks that manage communication from basic side mirror adjustments to advanced driverless controls. Originally, in-vehicle communications were done over a two-wire bus that transported basic communication from microprocessors and controllers to small end points such as sensors and small motors. However, as more advanced features were introduced into vehicle networks, legacy bus systems were unable to keep up with the bandwidth demands needed for newer technology communication. Vehicle manufactures decided Ethernet was the standard protocol for vehicle communications due to its flexibility and proven success in enterprise and industrial networking environments. The addition of Ethernet inside vehicle networks opened the door to opportunities far beyond passenger and commercial vehicles.
Industrial vehicle manufactures took advantage of the opportunities created by Ethernet. It allowed for the creation of specific application vehicles that included autonomous controls, but also robotics, AI, and hydraulic systems. Today, we have IAVs plow fields, harvest crops, and use robotic arms to lift containers.
As more technologies are added to vehicles, we will see whole communities or ecosystems of self-aware autonomous vehicles interacting with each other. These autonomous vehicles will decide on what routes, processes and directions are best while operating with little to no human interaction.
About Antaira Technologies: Antaira Technologies is a leading developer and manufacturer that provides high-quality industrial networking and communication product solutions. Since 2005, Antaira has offered a full spectrum of product lines that feature reliable Ethernet infrastructures, extended temperature tolerance, and rugged enclosure designs. Our product lines range from industrial Ethernet switches, industrial wireless solutions, Ethernet media converters, and serial communication devices. Our vast professional experience allows us to deploy a wide array of products worldwide in mission-critical applications across various markets, such as, automation, transportation, security, oil & gas, power/utility, and medical.