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Robust Power Line Communication for Automotive Applications

In the last few years, automotive control technology has been evolved dramatically. There are numerous functions that have traditionally relied on mechanical transmissions have been gradually switched to electrical controlled components for the purpose of improving safety, reliability, and driving comfort to the drivers and passengers, like powered window motion control, automatic climate control, etc. Further to these changes, more and more intelligent electronic equipment starts to appear in vehicles. Considering the continuing evolution of the automobile industry, more and more electrical powered components and circuits are going to be added into the system. Most vehicles today already had more than 50 different control units or nodes in the vehicle. Plus all the new components we need for the next generation vehicle, the total control units will become a considerable large number.

Currently, numerous control units exchange information via dedicated wired communication networks in automotive. The increased number of electrical controlled components extremely increases the total amount and the complexity of the wiring harness. The wiring harness has already been the second heaviest component after the engine. The complicated harness will directly result to some issues such as cost increase, extra weight, difficulties in installation (need dedicated design for routing and accessing) and troubleshooting, etc. If we still stay with the existing control design methods, there is no doubt that the wiring of the whole vehicle will become very clumsy and inefficiency. In order to resolve these problems, we propose to use power line as transmission media for those electrical controlled components.
PLC technology has been successfully used in home networks. The physical layer for transmission information in such application is the power line, which is characterized at 11 VAC 50 Hz or 220 VAC 60 Hz. However, in automotive application, the power line operates at low DC voltage complying with batteries and electronic devices (e.g., 3.3, 5, 9, 12 and 24V DC). Therefore the structure of the cable network is quite different in both cases. A direct transposition of the work done for PLC in-house applications to in-vehicle communication is not trivial.

Power line communication (PLC) could simply rely on the car power line network for transmitting signals. It will extremely simplify and limit the wiring bundles. In this project, we aim to develop a robust PLC transceiver, which can be used in the noisy automobile environment for HVAC ((heating, ventilation, air conditioning) control data communication using 24V DC power line. Specifically, following tasks will be investigated. Communication channel noise features and statistics will be tested and investigated; Physical layer communication design techniques, such as controlled redundancy, frequency hopping techniques, and adaptive techniques to combat noise and improve transmission quality will be investigated and applied. At the end of the project, we aim to develop PLC module, which is ready to be used in vehicle for control information transmission.

In the proposed project, we aim to design robust transceivers using DC battery power line as transmission medium. The objective will be achieved through a rigorous theoretical study and engineering design procedure, in which the latest technologies will be employed in the design of the proposed system. Following techniques specific for power line communication will be investigated: (a) adaptive transmission techniques will be investigated and applied. The receiver will feedback the received signal strength to the transmitter. Appropriate schemes will be proposed to schedule the transmission. (b) Frequency hopping techniques will be investigated to effectively combat noisy, non-linear and frequency selective channel. (c) Advanced redundancy techniques will be studied. By integrating these techniques, we expect to develop robust transceivers immune to noise disturbance and contribute to the comfortable in-vehicle environment.