In the early decades of American railroad construction, competing companies laid their tracks at different widths. Such inconsistent standards drove inefficiencies, preventing the easy exchange of rolling stock from one railroad to the next, and impeding the infrastructure from coalescing into a unified national network. Only in the 1860s, when a national standard emerged – 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches – did railroads begin delivering their true, networked potential.
Some one hundred-and-sixty years later, as Marvell and its competitors race to reinvent the world’s transportation networks, universal design standards are more important than ever. Recently, Marvell’s 88Q5050 Ethernet Device Bridge became the first of its type in the automotive industry to receive Avnu certification, meeting exacting new technical standards that facilitate the exchange of information between diverse in-car networks, which enable today’s data-dependent vehicles to operate smoothly, safely and reliably.
Avnu, the industry alliance focused on promoting an interoperable ecosystem based on IEEE 802.1 standards for Time Sensitive Networking (TSN), issues product certifications based on testing by approved third-party labs. In this case, the 88Q5050 was tested and approved by the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory, known as UNH-IOL.
The TSN standards defined by IEEE provide a “tool box” of specifications designed to meet the networking requirements of today’s Automotive, Industrial, and Professional A/V industries. Designed to enable low latency, time aware networking, with guaranteed delivery of time critical data across today’s Ethernet networks, the TSN specifications encompass 17 approved standards to date, with more continuing to be developed.
Issues of precise timing and low latency are critical in many applications, but especially so in today’s motor vehicles, whose drivers rely on instant and reliable feedback from cameras, blind-spot indicators, lidar, radar and other safety systems. Marvell’s product line, of which the 88Q5050 is just one device, provides automotive companies and suppliers with the means – and confidence – to know that critical data will not be competing for bandwidth, and that information will flow quickly, consistently and accurately, without interference from potentially malicious actors.
Figure 1 shows a typical automotive architecture with cameras, lidar, and radar enabled as AVB/TSN talkers, with AVB/TSN switches (such as the AVB enabled 88Q5050) used to provide guaranteed delivery of low latency, time critical sensor data to the Automotive CPUs, acting as AVB listeners, for processing.
The 88Q5050 is an 8-port Ethernet switch offering 4 fixed IEEE 100BASE-T1 ports, and a configurable selection of an additional 4 ports from 1x IEEE 100BASE-T1 port, 1x IEEE 100BASE-TX, 2x MII/RMII/RGMII ports,1 GMII port, and 1 SGMII port. The switch offers local and remote management capabilities, for easy access and configuration of the device.
The switch also employs the highest hardware security features, designed at the root source of the switch to prevent hacks or compromises to data streamed within the vehicle – such as through an unguarded tire pressure sensor, or any other unexpected vulnerability.
This advanced switch – an end-to-end solution – employs deep packet inspection techniques and Trusted Boot functionality to deliver the industry’s most secure automotive Ethernet switch. To further enhance security, it supports both blacklisting and whitelisting addresses on all its Ethernet ports. Guaranteed to perform at or beyond its specifications, it will open up entirely new avenues to the future, and it has already secured design wins with several leading automotive OEMs.Figure 3: 88Q5050 Block Diagram
High universal standards, however, don’t just emerge out of thin air. They are the result of committed partnership, as stakeholders seek the efficiencies and benefits that flow from standardization, quality and reliability. In establishing America’s unified railroad gage, leaders eventually decided to go with the existing European standard, because American engineers wanted the flexibility to import British locomotives, known for their power and reliability. But where did that European standard itself originate? After all, 4 feet 8-1/2 inches seems like an idiosyncratic, if not arbitrary, measurement.
Some historians have traced its measurement to the standard width of Roman roads and bridges, built in ancient times for chariots – vehicles whose size was limited by what an average horse could pull.  Like a spiderweb across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, this Roman network comprised an estimated 50,000 miles of paved roads, connecting an empire and changing history.
Today, Marvell’s commitment to invest and advance the frontiers of automotive silicon, the standards we champion, and the networks they enable, just might change the future.