FlexRay not dead, chip vendors claim

October 25, 2012 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
A certain disappointment is hard to overlook when chip manufacturers talk about the present and future state of the FlexRay automotive networking technology. However, FlexRay is far from being dead, assert chip vendors polled by EE Times Europe unanimously.

At the recent VDI congress on automotive electronics in Baden-Baden (Germany) where the elite of automotive electronics not only from German-speaking countries met, congress chairman Wolfgang Runge told the audience that FlexRay has no future. "FlexRay is dead" said Runge who spent most of his professional life in the automotive industry and now runs a consultancy for much the same clientele. Runge is said to have extremely good connections throughout the industry and for this reason one can believe that he knows what he is talking about.

But in the case of FlexRay, he might have overstated the actual situation, chip vendors involved in the FlexRay business say. Nevertheless, disappointment about the market performance is hard to overlook. "Of course I recognize that the initial expectations have failed to materialize", said Juergen Weyer, Vice President Automotive for chipmaker Freescale. "But reports of its decease are drastically exaggerated". FlexRay connects MCUs in many car models currently under production. "FlexRay was never intended to assume the task of a networking backbone inside the vehicles", Weyer said. "The main application driver for FlexRay was x-by-wire, the concept of replacing mechanical control elements such as the steering column by electronic signal transmission". Weyer pointed out that very recently Nissan has introduced a steer-by-wire concept for future vehicles.

Freescale competitor NXP has a similar view of the market situation. "What we expected ten years ago has not materialized", said Rob Hoeben, Director Business Development at NXP. "Nevertheless we see a lot of FlexRay-related activity around the globe - in the U.S., in Japan and in Korea". FlexRay will continue to be the technology of choice for deterministic applications in the chassis and power train domains, Hoeben said, highlighting that by means of its redundant data channels, FlexRay offers "safety by design". He also pointed out that NXP does not see any necessity to change its strategy. The company even has new chip designs with FlexRay