There's a variety of flavors of in-car networking standards that corral the large number of embedded computers and nodes present in the modern automobile. BMW Research and Technology, an R&D division of BMW, has found Internet Protocol up to the tasks that the other standards currently perform. BMW engineers used a standard PC and connected it up to the expected gear -- ECUs, engine and chassis control systems, even a multimedia server for the entertainment system. The reasoning behind using IP versus the more specialized protocols is to anticipate future needs and requirements, as well as reducing costs. Costs drop because fewer specialized components are needed, and the new version of IPv6 is even better than the more than fine performance from IPv4. It's a little spooky to think that your fly-by-wire throttle could be trying to chat with the engine using the same technology that we use to send instant messages, but IP proved itself capable enough even for critical safety functions. The research is ongoing, but BMW's work bodes well for adding functionality and decreasing costs. Adding aftermarket goodies should be fairly painless and service shops will also have an easier time of it by going with a more universal language. Imagine surfing the web with iDrive, though. Blech.
[Source: Automotive Design Line, Photo: Zercustoms]