CAN Communication: Modern Vehicle Backbone | Dorleco

CAN Communication: The Backbone of Modern Vehicle Networks


Vehicles in the modern automotive industry have developed into intricate networks of interconnected electrical devices rather than being only mechanical units. To transmit information and guarantee smooth functioning, these systems rely on reliable and effective communication protocols.

The CAN (Controller Area Network) protocol is one such standard that has come to serve as the foundation of contemporary automotive networks. The importance of CAN communication to the automotive industry, as well as its main characteristics and effects on vehicle performance and safety, are all covered in this article.

Knowledge of CAN Communication

A serial bus protocol created exclusively for automotive applications is called CAN communication. The 1980s saw the development of it by Robert Bosch GmbH as a response to the growing complexity of automotive electronics.

The main objective of CAN communication is to make data interchange between different electronic control units (ECUs) inside a vehicle reliable and effective.

What is CAN Communication? How Does It Work?

CAN is a peer-to-peer network, as was already said. As a result, no master manages which nodes can read and write data on the CAN bus at any one time. A CAN node writes a CAN frame onto the network when it is prepared to transmit data by checking to see if the bus is busy.

The addresses of the transmitting node or any of the intended receiving nodes are absent from the CAN frames that are sent. The frame is instead identified by an arbitration ID that is particular to the network. After receiving the CAN frame, each CAN node on the network makes a decision based on the arbitration ID of that transmitted frame.

The node with the greatest priority (lowest arbitration ID) is given bus access if more than one node attempts to send a message onto the CAN bus at once. Priority-lower nodes must wait for the bus to reopen before attempting to transmit again. CAN networks can be set up in this fashion to guarantee deterministic communication between CAN nodes.

Key Features of CAN Communication ;

1. Bus Topology:

CAN Communication: Modern Vehicle Backbone | Dorleco

CAN communication uses a bus topology, in which numerous ECUs are linked together to form the CAN bus, a single communication line. All ECUs on the bus can send and receive data simultaneously thanks to this configuration.

2. Arbitration:

Conflicts may arise when many ECUs try to transmit data simultaneously over CAN. To resolve these conflicts, CAN uses a non-destructive bitwise arbitration system. The arbitration procedure makes sure that the most crucial message is transmitted first while the others wait.

3. Fault Tolerance and Error Detection:

CAN communication includes effective techniques for fault tolerance and error rectification. A cyclic redundancy check (CRC) field is included in every message that is sent, enabling recipients to confirm the accuracy of the data they have received. In addition, error frames are produced to indicate flawed transmissions, facilitating quick detection and correction of communication problems.

4. Flexible Data Rate:

CAN 2.0, the first version of the CAN protocol, had a variable data rate of 1 Mbps. But with the advent of CAN Flexible Data Rate (CAN FD), the protocol’s capabilities were upgraded, enabling faster data transmission rates, larger payloads, and greater effectiveness.

The advantages of CAN communication in automobiles ;

1. Reliability:

CAN Communication: Modern Vehicle Backbone | Dorleco

Even in the presence of electromagnetic interference and challenging operational conditions, CAN connectivity provides reliable data flow between ECUs. The system’s overall robustness is enhanced by fault tolerance and error detection systems.

2. Scalability:

CAN connectivity enables good scalability as vehicles get more complicated with an increasing number of ECUs? The current CAN bus can readily accommodate more ECUs without requiring significant network architectural changes.

3. Reduced connection Complexity:

Point-to-point connection between ECUs is unnecessary with CAN connectivity. Instead, numerous ECUs can be connected by a single communication line, drastically decreasing wiring complexity and vehicle weight.

4. Real-time Performance:

Because CAN communication is deterministic, real-time data transfer and response are possible. This is essential for vital auto operations including ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) operation and airbag deployment.

CAN Communication: Modern Vehicle Backbone | Dorleco

Advanced diagnosis and maintenance capabilities are made possible by CAN connectivity. It makes it simple to access ECU data, facilitating speedy issue finding, software updates, and troubleshooting.

Impact on Vehicle Safety and Performance

CAN connectivity is essential for enhancing the performance and safety of vehicles? It promotes coordinated operation and synchronization of crucial functions by making it possible for seamless communication between numerous ECUs.

For better performance and fuel efficiency, the engine control unit and transmission control unit, for instance, can share data to optimize gear shifting. Additionally, real-time monitoring of the vehicle’s systems through CAN communication enables the early identification of problems and the implementation of preventative measures, improving overall safety.


Modern car networks now function as a whole thanks to CAN communication, which makes it possible for electronic control units to exchange data in an effective and dependable manner. It is the perfect protocol for automotive applications due to its bus architecture, arbitration mechanism, error detection, and fault tolerance capabilities.

Numerous advantages of CAN communication include scalability, simplified wiring, real-time performance, and improved diagnostics. Its influence on driving efficiency and safety is evident, allowing for more efficient operation. CAN connection will be a crucial element in determining the future of intelligent and connected vehicles as automotive technology develops.

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