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Keeping Cars Smart and Safe with Compliant Ethernet Switches


Conformance to Ethernet switch specifications provides assurance that the device’s basic implementations are done correctly. Learn about the critical capabilities a test solution needs to ensure successful validation of Ethernet switches.

Thousands of semiconductor chips keep our cars smart and humming along. Electronic Control Units (ECUs) manage everything, from wheels to camera A/V. They’ve become critical to how modern vehicles operate and perform. These chips communicate via a network of switches and buses that have greatly expanded in application and bandwidth requirements, straining the capabilities of traditional Controller Area Network (CAN) buses.

The automotive industry is adopting Ethernet to transport in-car data more efficiently. As a well-understood technology, it boasts economies of scale, desirable price-points as a multi-vendor commodity and higher bandwidth. Its proven standards enable Ethernet devices to be plug-and-play and integrate easily with higher layer applications.

But how can stakeholders be sure all those components will work as expected and will not jeopardize drive safety, while at the same time ensuring resilience to security threats?

Ensuring Ethernet switches are up to the task

Ethernet switches are central to the success and efficiency of these growing in-car communication networks. To enable plug-and-play of switches built by multiple manufacturers, they must meet specific standards.

As a first step, component manufacturers are requested to prove the switches they produce will conform to industry standards. Car makers retest the components in customized environments to validate the functionality and performance within a network. Once components are deemed conformant, interoperability and performance testing can follow. The pace of innovation in automotive electronics dictates that these series of tests be done rapidly to meet market demand.

Ethernet switch standards are described in the OPEN Alliance SIG (One Pair Ethernet Special Interest Group) TC11 documents. They are used to validate the compliance at OSI layer 2 of an in-vehicle Ethernet switch. The OPEN Alliance also defines requirements for other layers, such as TC8 for TCP/IP layer conformance.

As Ethernet switches are being adopted in automotive, manufacturers and integrators need straight-forward yet comprehensive approaches to TC11 compliance testing.

Critical capabilities for testing OPEN Alliance TC11 compliance

Test solutions (test suites) are required for the test scenarios and settings, based on the OPEN TC11 specifications for Ethernet switch semiconductor functions, such as forwarding, filtering, QoS and timing behaviors.

To meet pressing market needs, TC11 test solutions should be automated and easy to use, without test script programming knowledge. At the same time, they need to be flexible enough to allow configuration modifications in source code and quick adaptation to evolving standards.

Based on decades of experience testing Ethernet, we’ve found that these TC11 test solution capabilities are critical for success:

  • A framework that runs on any OS architecture

  • Test cases that meet TC11 specifications, implemented on an open, high performance test platform

  • High timing precision with a hardware clock

  • Tests executed automatically with out-of-the box libraries to eliminate script design needs

  • A flexible software test platform that makes it easy to extend or modify test cases or adapt to evolving standards

  • Access to the test case source code to allow behavior or configuration modifications, if desired

  • Tests implemented by TC11 category using standardized test language

  • Multiple physical ports to the device under test

  • Fast logging, archiving, and exporting in different formats

  • High-level management or detailed report options

Selecting a TC11 compliance test provider that also supports performance and benchmarking testing, as well as TC8 (TCP/IP) testing, in a single integrated solution increases efficiency and is an economical approach.

By performing in-depth conformance testing of switches, it is possible to ensure in-car Ethernet networks function properly, keeping our cars smart and safe.

Learn about Spirent’s TC11 testing capabilities or visit our complete portfolio of automotive Ethernet and network testing solutions.

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Alain Vouffo
Alain Vouffo

Senior Product Manager Automotive

Dr. Alain Vouffo holds a PhD in Software Engineering and an MSc in Electrical Engineering and Communication Networks, both from the Technical University of Berlin. He has over 15 years of experience in testing and designing communication systems and their application in telecommunications, automotive, railway and medical domains. Dr. Vouffo works as an Automotive Product Manager at Spirent Communications designing test solutions for today’s vehicles with the aim of realizing the fully connected and autonomous car of the future and addressing the testing needs associated with the latest evolution of that technology.