If ethernet brings up images of 1990s technology and its use in cars suggests a spaghetti of cables like your office, then think again.

Freescale Semiconductor is one of several companies now exploring ethernet technology in an automotive communications and networking environment, and it could bring about improvements and cost saving to features like parking assist camera systems.

Cost is an issue with current systems. Allan McAuslin from Freescale suggests that current parking camera connections using low-voltage differential system cables can cost up to $5 to $10 per camera. Replacing this network of expensive cables with an chip that collects data and then sends it via ethernet cables would cost only pennies.

Data transfer speeds are improved too - up to ten times that of current systems. This means it has applications beyond parking cameras, and Renesas Electronics has recently included ethernet links on microcontrollers aimed at vehicle infotainment and networking systems.

Big names like Hyundai and BMW are seeing potential in ethernet too for its high performance, and the ease to which it meshes with many portable consumer products. Freescale is working closely with BMW on its future in-car systems.

It seems that the reason ethernet became so popular for home and office networking will benefit automotive applications, too...

[SAE, image via Wikipedia user David Monniaux]