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Safer automotive data communications with <25% the cabling 

In ipXchange’s next piece of coverage from CES 2024, Guy chats to Daniel about Valens’ remarkable solutions for high-performance wired connectivity. 

As you can see from the background of the interview, Valens’ latest work comes in conjunction with the MIPI (Mobile Industry Processor Interface) Alliance to provide a future-proof, standardised technology for high-speed automotive sensor and display interfaces over long distances, with reduced, simplified cabling. As Daniel explains, Valens’ solution also helps to reduce cost and bulk in a system because of the high bandwidth enabled while using smaller, less-expensive cables and connectors. 

To provide a little history of how we got to this point, Valens used the precursor to its latest innovations to greatly simplify cabling in the professional audio-visual connectivity field, with HDMI, USB, control signals, power, and more over a single cable. This revolutionised what was possible for long-distance – over 100 metres – wired audio-visual applications where any compromise in quality cannot be tolerated. 

Fast-forward to 2012, and Valens realised that the automotive industry faced a similar problem, with more cables and interfaces than could be managed. Daniel highlights that wire harnesses had grown significantly, adding to cost and weight but also putting vehicles at a single-point-of-failure risk should such an assembly become damaged. 

After being approached by a top automotive OEM – Mercedes-Benz – to solve this problem, Valens created a technology that allows a single, unshielded twisted pair to run 1 Gbit ethernet, USB 2.0, digital audio, control signals, and even power on up to 15 metres of cabling. This reduces the wiring and connectors by over four times. Given that USB 2.0 is usually specified at a maximum of 5 metres in length, Valens’ solution not only converges wired connectivity, but it also extends its range. Mercedes-Benz was very happy! 

Now onto how MIPI fits into this conversation: after a brief explanation of how the MIPI Alliance standardised interfacing in smart phones, Daniel explains that with the growing number of sensing peripherals in cars – cameras being a key example – MIPI seemed like a good solution to interface these devices, with one small problem: MIPI is designed to run data for centimetres, not metres. The problem was solved with proprietary analogue SerDes (Serializer/Deserializer) technologies, but this made for a real problem during the semiconductor shortage. 

The MIPI Alliance proposed that a better, digital solution could be found, which resulted in the MIPI A-PHY specification. Though many companies proposed solutions, the winning technology was born out of Valens’ previous experience in finding a solution to the issues faced by Mercedes-Benz. This standard was quickly adopted by IEEE after weeks of release, resulting in a huge ecosystem of companies that support MIPI A-PHY. Valens is at the heart of this innovation. 

Valens’ MIPI A-PHY devices ensure highest-fidelity signal transfer through minimal cabling over long distances, with hardwired DSP algorithms in the receiver that enable adaptive noise cancellation and physical layer retransmission for error correction, for example. The signal types include CSI-2, I2C, SPI, clock, frame sync, GPIO, and power to support sensor data, display data, and more. 

With cameras, lidar, and radar becoming a mission-critical part of car infrastructure – especially with the rise of ADAS – reliable wired communications have never been more important for vehicle safety. Additionally, electromagnetic interference is a huge point of concern from mobile phone signals, electric motors, and other sources that are beyond the user’s control. Valens ensures that all communications are flawless, with up to 16 Gbps of data transfer on one cable with a latency of a few microseconds, regardless of the environment the car operates in. 

Learn more about Valens’ MIPI A-PHY solutions by following the link to the board page below, where you can apply to evaluate this disruptive technology for use in your next commercial project. 

ipXchange has a couple of shorter Valens videos coming soon with demonstrations of this technology, so stay tuned, and as always… 

Keep designing! 

Valens VA7000 Series MIPI A-PHY SerDes Devices

Want to significantly reduce cabling in your automotive system while simultaneously improving reliability of all wired interfaces? 

Apply for the development board now

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