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Marvell Accelerates In-Car Networks

January 14, 2020

Author: Bob Wheeler

As engineers create cars with greater autonomy, electrification, and connectivity, their electrical/electronic (E/E) architectures require simplification. Ethernet has emerged as the leading unified automotive network, replacing legacy CAN, FlexRay, LIN, and MOST buses as well as proprietary LVDS interfaces. Despite the boom in sensors and processing, automotive Ethernet can actually simplify wiring harnesses. But even as automotive-design cycles shrink, component suppliers continue to wait years before seeing a return on investment for new technologies.

One patient vendor is Marvell, which recently sampled the second generation of its purpose-built automotive switch chips. The 88Q6113 targets high-performance nodes requiring ports speeds of up to 10Gbps, whereas the 88Q5072 integrates PHYs for 100Mbps ports. Both include an Arm Cortex-M7 CPU and handle the security and quality-of-service (QoS) features that automotive Ethernet requires.

In 3Q19, the company also increased its automotive-networking stake by purchasing Aquantia. Whereas Marvell is shipping Gigabit Ethernet PHYs for single-pair wiring (1000Base-T1), Aquantia applies its 10GBase-T technology to higher-speed PHYs. Its AQV10x chips handle 2.5Gbps, 5Gbps, and 10Gbps rates using one, two, and four pairs, respectively. The company also offers AQVC10x PCI Express (PCIe) controller chips to connect third-party SoCs—for example, Nvidia’s Xavier—to multigigabit (greater than 1Gbps) automotive networks.

Rather than Marvell, Broadcom was first to develop auto-specific Ethernet PHYs, creating what would become the 100Base-T1 standard. It was ahead of the market, however, and Marvell leapfrogged it with early 1000Base-T1 availability. Automotive powerhouse NXP also offers Ethernet switch chips and acquired a PHY specialist in 2018. With Aquantia now aboard, however, Marvell has driven to the leading edge for next-generation automotive-network designs.

Subscribers can view the full article in the Microprocessor Report.

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