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Automotive Architectures

Electronic systems in the vehicles are networked in different architectures types.


In the design of modern automobiles, the electronic systems in the vehicles fall into one of two main network types — domain and zonal architectures. The network architecture enables different subsystems to share resources, which can reduce the cost and weight of a vehicle with fewer chips and wires. As the number and complexity of functions in vehicle increases, automotive OEMs are using architectures that

Domain architecture 

Domain architectures use a gateway or common domain controller to control a type of function. The domain controller reduces the number of engine control units (ECUs) and simplifies software development and distribution of systems in a domain. 1. Common domains are:

  • Infotainment
  • Chassis
  • Powertrain
  • Body and comfort

Zonal architecture

Zonal architectures partition vehicles into zones that are more manageable and flexible, using a zone controller, which controls physical zones of the vehicle. The zonal architecture improves the efficiency consumption by reducing weight, with the reduction of size of the wires harness. The zonal architecture is connected by Ethernet. But in addition to Automotive Ethernet, other protocols will be used such as ASA Motion-Link/MIPI A-PHY, MIPI CSI2, MIPI DSI, POF, CAN and LIN.

There is so much legacy technology in vehicles today that carmakers must support an alphabet-soup collection of protocols. For example, vehicles may support Bluetooth, USB, LTE support mobile devices for infotainment, along with some internally-developed protocols. For cameras, MIPI is the predominant protocol. And for real-time control of ADAS, ECUs, and sensor fusion, they likely will support controller area networks (CANs), local interconnect networks (LINs), Ethernet, and others.


Fig. 2: Zonal architecture simplifies traditional domain approach. Source: Marvell

Fig. 2: Zonal architecture simplifies traditional domain approach. Source: Marvell