What Is CAN?

CAN (Controller Area Network) is the newest computer protocol in the automotive industry and is mandatory on all cars by 2008.

CAN was first established by Bosch as an industrial control network, but car companies soon found it was a very robust protocol for in-vehicle use. As early as 1992, Mercedes and others placed intricate CAN networks in their vehicles to handle communications between controllers.
Computerization of vehicles has shifted from one computer controlling everything to a distributed system consisting of many computers, each having its own area of responsibility. This raises the challenge of how to make all of the computers communicate with each other in order to share the work they do. The solution is CAN—the protocol that allows the manufacturers to implement fast, efficient, interoperable computers.

CAN is a high-speed data link that runs fifty times faster than the protocols currently implemented in today's vehicles. This speed, combined with the new parameters defined for CAN, will give technicians the ability to see data faster and gain a more accurate diagnosis.

In the past, protocols used by the car companies were proprietary. This ended in 1996 with the advent of OBD-II and EOBD which forced the manufacturers to select between 4 different types of communications: J1850-PWM, J1850-VPW, ISO-9141 and ISO-14230. Allowing four different protocols has created many complications in repair, inspection and maintenance.

The CAN protocol has been integrated into the OBD-II and EOBD specs by the International Standards Organization (ISO) committee and has been accepted as the standard diagnostic protocol by manufacturers. In addition, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has embraced CAN and made it mandatory for all vehicles in the USA. Manufacturers begun implementing CAN in 2003 and must be CAN compliant by 2008.



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