Knowledgebase: Terminology
CAN
Posted by Squarell Technology on 09 December 2013 10:29 AM

CAN (Controller Area Network) is a standard serial interface bus which is commonly used in vehicles.

A Controller Area Network (CANbus) is a robust vehicle bus standard designed to allow microcontrollers and devices to communicate with each other in applications without a host computer. It is a message-based protocol, designed originally for multiplex electrical wiring within automobiles to save on copper, but is also used in many other contexts.

The modern automobile may have as many as 70 electronic control units (ECU) for various subsystems. Typically the biggest processor is the engine control unit. Others are used for transmission, airbags, antilock braking/ABS, cruise control, electric power steering, audio systems, power windows, doors, mirror adjustment, battery and recharging systems for hybrid/electric cars, etc. Some of these form independent subsystems, but communications among others are essential. A subsystem may need to control actuators or receive feedback from sensors. The CAN standard was devised to fill this need. One key advantage is that interconnection between different vehicle systems can allow a wide range of safety, economy and convenience features to be implemented using software alone - functionality which would add cost and complexity if such features were "hard wired" using traditional automotive electrics. 

A small example of CANbus communication.