Issue: Jul 2010


Ai interview - Christian Thiel, chief spokesperson for the MOST Cooperation



by Lenny Case

The Media Oriented Systems Transport or MOST Cooperation recently announced that latest research indicated that its MOST150 standard is ready to support safety-critical apps and could potentially be the future network for driver assistance systems. For the MOST Cooperation, which has been working to provide the automotive industry a cohesive multimedia standard, it was great news that apart from infotainment, the MOST150 could be used for critical functions such as driver assist.

“Today's MOST is now exceeding the limits of infotainment. Driver assistance functions are starting to complete and extend the feature set of traditional infotainment systems. Along with information features such as navigation systems, traffic information, and function warnings, the number of vehicles with driver assistance features like camera systems, distance controls, or lane departure warnings will be rapidly increasing,” says Harald Schoepp, member of the MOST Cooperation steering committee.

The infrastructure for driver assist systems (sensors, networks and processing units) is fairly complex and expensive. At the same time, the technical specifications of such infrastructure for different application areas overlap to a large extent. Therefore, looking in particular at sensors and networks, it is inevitable to consider the requirements for active safety or pre-safe applications when defining such system components for driver assist systems.

What is critical for such systems is a network that offers high speed and security. The MOST vehicle network is currently the only one that comes close to meeting all the requirements for such a system. Currently the MOST Cooperation is looking at making the necessary improvementsadditions. Flexible topology options, new physical layers and protocol enhancements are being worked on. MOST can use plastic optical fiber or electrical unshielded or shielded twisted pair wire physical layers that meet automotive environmental requirements. Today MOST is used in over 90 car models as the communication backbone for their information and entertainment equipment.

MOST150 offers the technology and full audio/video capability for next generation automotive infotainment features and devices such as head units, rear seat entertainment, amplifiers, TV-tuners and video displays. 

MOST150 solutions are today being tailored to the five major fields of in-car use cases - entertainment, information, mobile connectivity, connected services, and driver assistance. Entertainment applications, in particular, have taken a major technology step in data transmission for high-definition audio and video, Blu-ray, gaming, MPEG audio streams, and so forth.

To support more complex video applications, MOST150 contains an isochronous transport mechanism in addition to higher bandwidth, for a data transfer rate of 150 Mbps. This allows the transmission of audio and video signals with high bandwidth efficiency and without any overhead for addressing, collision detection/recovery, or broadcast. Consequently, in a MOST network, multiple high-definition video streams, single definition video streams, and multi-channel surround sound with premium quality of service can be transmitted at the same time.

Isochronous channels are provided to support streams which are not synchronized to the MOST frame rate. A typical use case is the transport of MPEG streams over a MOST network, since MPEG streams generally use variable bit-rates. This new MOST feature enables cost-effective, extensive video applications. The support of HD audio and video content from Blu-ray discs or HDTV is implemented.

The MOST Cooperation consists of 16 international vehicle manufacturers and 60 key component suppliers. The MOST Cooperation was founded in 1998 to standardize MOST technology as a global standard for multimedia networking. Audi, BMW, Daimler, Harman/Becker and SMSC are its core partners and constitute its steering committee. Audi, as one of Germany’s leading automobile manufacturer is a key member as is Daimler, which is part of the Mercedes Car Group.

Mercedes is a leading supplier of superior passenger cars, SUVs and sports tourers and is one of the world’s largest commercial vehicle manufacturer. SMSC’s Automotive Information Systems develops, markets and supports components for real-time multimedia technology, interconnected in optical and electrical networks for automotive multimedia networking applications. BMW has three brands under its umbrella – BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce. The BMW Group’s is focused on the premium segment of the global auto market. Harman Automotive Division the other member of the MOST steering committee makes advanced technologies for the car from high-end audio systems with leading-edge multi-channel surround sound technology.

The MOST Cooperation has a number of associate members including. Aston Martin which is a British manufacturer of luxury performance cars. Detroit-headquartered General Motors Corp, is another associate member which manufactures its cars and trucks in 33 countries. GM cars and trucks are sold globally under the following brands - Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, GM Daewoo, Holden, HUMMER, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. Other associate members include the Hyundai Motor Company, a division of the Hyundai Kia Automotive Group, which is South Korea's largest automaker.

The Swedish Volvo which supplies commercial transport solutions providing products such as trucks, buses and construction equipment, drive systems for marine and industrial applications, aerospace components and financial services is another associate member. The Ford Motor Company is included in the list of MOST Cooperation’s list of associate members. Ford manufactures and distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. The company’s core and affiliated automotive brands include Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury and Volvo.

Other associate members include Honda which manufactures produces automobiles, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, personal watercraft, lawn mowers, marine engines and portable generators at its 10 major U.S. manufacturing plants - with two additional plants currently under construction. And Nissan, which is a Japanese automobile manufacturer.

Automotive Industries spoke to Christian Thiel, chief spokesperson for the MOST Cooperation.

AI: Please tell us about the latest developments in the MOST Cooperation including MOST 50 / MOST150.

The MOST Cooperation gladly reports the fast-growing acceptance of MOST Technology worldwide. Since the first MOST car model in 2001, almost 100 vehicle models have implemented the MOST infotainment backbone within only nine years. Besides Europe, MOST Technology is gaining widespread popularity in Asia’s automotive market and it is about to start with first vehicle models in the United States. In addition, the use of MOST Technology in cars like the Mini from BMW, the Audi A1 or the Toyota Prius shows that the multimedia network has also made inroads into the mass-produced models of the mid-range sector. The vehicles presented so far manufactured by Asian automakers with MOST built in add up to a grand total of over 15 models. Whereas MOST25 Technology – based on optical data transmission using optical fibers and under development for many years in Europe – has established itself in the Korean market, the Japanese market in particular prefers MOST50, the second generation of the multimedia standard. The most significant new feature of MOST50 is that it allows electrical implementations as an alternative to using plastic optical fiber (POF). It enables data transmission over an unshielded twisted pair (UTP) of copper wires while meeting stringent automotive electromagnetic compatibility requirements.

Furthermore, MOST Technology has proven to be ready for implementation in hybrid and electric cars which will gain popularity within environmentally friendly measures for the future. The plastic optical fiber chosen twelve years ago significantly reduces the weight of the wiring harness. The entire cable weighs approximately as much as just the insulation used on an equivalent conventional copper connection. Particularly for electric mobility, every saving is crucial because all the electrical energy has to be stored on rechargeable batteries before commencing travel. Another issue is “electric smog”. From the beginning, MOST Technology has been one step ahead of other technologies. On account of its physical properties, an optical transmission does not emit any electromagnetic fields nor is it prone to disturbing influences from such fields. Consequently, this simplifies the design of components against electromagnetic interference (EMI), such as eliminating the need for expensive cable shielding. MOST is a ‘green’ technology not just on the physical level of the transmission medium but also on the protocol level. For example, the architecture of the network interface supports smart power management that allows for energy saving management of the devices attached to the MOST network. The over 95 vehicle models that have implemented MOST to date already include more than 10 hybrid vehicles. With respect to environmental sustainability and electric mobility, MOST Technology is state of the art and constitutes the modern platform for energy-saving infotainment systems.

Since the first specification of its latest generation, the MOST150 Technology the MOST Cooperation has been adapting it to the specific requirements of different applications. One great achievement is the broadening variety of applications supported by the MOST150 network. Basically, we look at five major fields of in-car use cases: MOST150 meets the requirements not only for the traditional areas of entertainment and information, but also for the new domains of mobile connectivity, connected services, and driver assistance. Today, MOST150 offers the technology and the audio/video capability for next generation automotive infotainment features and devices as well as new features like Internet access devices, video processing units, and many more. At present, this latest MOST150 Technology is ready for production: Various car makers have already started with first series projects implementing this latest MOST Technology. For example, Audi plans to implement MOST150 into upcoming vehicle models. With car makers’ commitments to the MOST150 network in vehicles from 2011 on, the suppliers of MOST devices, tools, and software solutions are focusing on optimizing their MOST150 product portfolio to ease implementation in future car models.


AI: Now that MOST150 has been identified as a suitable network for driver assist systems, what impact will it have on the MOST standard?

With MOST150, automotive network technology is ready to take this essential step beyond infotainment but of course the new use cases impose new requirements: Necessary improvements are being investigated and have been implemented. Recent studies prove MOST to be prepared for safety-critical applications. Flexible topology options, new physical layers and protocol enhancements are being worked on. At the recent MOST Forum 2010, a demonstrator showed that MOST supports star, daisy-chain, tree and other topologies as well as different physical layers. The implementation of MOST as a sensor network can, for example, be the first step to move MOST out of the infotainment-only world into driver assist applications.


AI: What do you attribute MOST150 being identified as a good standard for critical safety systems?

The infrastructure for driver assist systems (sensors, networks and processing units) is fairly complex and expensive. At the same time, the technical specifications of such infrastructure for different application areas overlap to a large extent. Therefore, looking in particular at sensors and networks, it is inevitable to consider the requirements for active safety or pre-safe applications when defining such system components for driver assist systems. Consequently, a suitable network will have to be both high speed and high security. None of today’s existing vehicle networks fulfills these requirements completely. However, from all candidates, the MOST network is the one that comes very close to the new requirements. The remaining gaps will be closed.


AI: What are some of the infotainment challenges MOST is currently working on?

Besides safety related applications the MOST standard is about to broaden in-car multimedia by forwarding high-definition audio and video into vehicles. To support more complex video applications, MOST150 contains an isochronous transport mechanism in addition to higher bandwidth, for a data transfer rate of 150 Mbps. This allows the transmission of audio and video signals with high bandwidth efficiency and without any overhead for addressing, collision detection/recovery, or broadcast. Consequently, in a MOST network, multiple high-definition (HD) video streams, single definition (SD) video streams, and multi-channel surround sound with premium Quality of Service can be transmitted at the same time. Isochronous channels are provided to support streams which are not synchronized to the MOST frame rate. A typical use case is the transport of MPEG streams over a MOST network, since MPEG streams generally use variable bit-rates. This new MOST feature enables cost-effective, extensive video applications. The support of HD audio and video content from Blu-ray Discs or HDTV is implemented. In addition to image and sound quality, in particular the synchronization between image and sound (Lip Sync) is essential. When adjusting Audio and Video to each other, transmission via the synchronous MOST network is a perfect match, because the delay between sound and image is absolutely constant. The MOST network itself does not add any notable delay. This also has the specific advantage that when operating a number of displays within a system, no special measures are required for synchronizing the various displays – the MOST network already incorporates this synchronization and, consequently, renders any further synchronization protocol unnecessary. These technology qualifications pave the way to rear-seat entertainment systems, digital sound amplifiers, TV tuners, video displays and other entertainment via the MOST network.

Furthermore, flexible means of connectivity to the MOST network are being looked at. For fast and flexible connectivity of consumer devices to the in-car MOST network, it is being discussed how Universal Plug-n-Play (UPnP) can be leveraged in a MOST based infotainment system. UPnP describes a standard of the home entertainment and consumer electronics world, providing standard interfaces for many entertainment functions. Due to the capability of MOST to transport Ethernet frames and IP based services transparently, UPnP can seamlessly migrate into car infotainment applications as well. The embedded car world and the consumer world can be blended seamlessly. Furthermore, UPnP is proposed for a MOST/IP gateway, describing the signaling to establish audio streaming between a consumer device and the vehicle's infotainment system.


AI: How do you see the future of vehicle infotainment evolving?

In the near future, vehicle infotainment will offer expanding areas with new automotive use cases coming up. In the MOST Cooperation, we look at five major fields of in-car applications: In addition to the traditional areas of entertainment and information, the new domains of mobile connectivity, connected services, and driver assistance are arising. To meet the requirements, MOST150 today already offers the technology and the audio/video capability for next generation automotive infotainment features and devices. But it is also ready for new features like Internet access devices, iPods, cameras, video processing units, and many more.


AI: What are some of the challenges facing MOST today in terms of changing automotive manufacturers’ demands?

Next steps in the MOST roadmap, which has been set up in collaboration of carmakers and suppliers, comprise the next generation infotainment – connectivity requirements and considering cost-down effects. Emerging applications in the infotainment domain include the seamless integration of portable consumer electronic devices and the support of HD audio and video content, e.g. Blu-ray or HDTV. Further applications include camera applications, rear seat entertainment systems and driver assistance systems. In the field of data transfer gateways (Ethernet SW download and diagnosis), IP communication between applications and enhanced diagnostics capabilities are on the roadmap. The future generation of MOST will be enhancing the bandwidth in the range of several Gbps. The MOST network will need to support digital audio, video and data services equally with high Quality-of-Service (QoS) synchronous (PCM audio), high QoS isochronous (MPEG Transport Streams, audio and video over IP), high performance Packet with IP support and real-time control. Improved connector concepts will demand improvements and innovations in the physical layer, e.g. optical connections.


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