The idea of Controller Area Network (CAN) was hatched by engineers at the Robert Bosch GmbH in Germany in the early 1980s. They investigated the market for a suitable field-bus technology for use in automobiles that would enable them to add further functionality. The main focus was a communication system between a number of ECUs (electronic control units) in vehicles by Mercedes-Benz.
Any field-bus system that is based on serial communication will reduce wiring, which was originally considered only as an advantageous side effect. Distributed control, i.e. the use of a multi-processor system, will consequently result in increased performance and the vastly reduced costs of microcontroller chips in the market already made the use of multiple processors in one system affordable. Other advantages are increased reliability and improved service and maintenance features.
However, none of the existing communication protocols did meet the specific requirements for communication speed and data reliability; as a result they had to develop their own standard.
The involvement of a vehicle manufacturer - Mercedes-Benz- and a semiconductor manufacturer – Intel - as well as several universities in Germany has helped to make CAN a success story.
The CAN standard was first introduced 1986 during the SAE congress in Detroit, Michigan. The first CAN controller chips, the Intel 82526 and the Philips 82C200, were introduced in 1987.
Since then many other semiconductor manufacturers made a decision to produce stand-alone CAN controllers or implement them into their single-chip designs.
The CAN protocol is protected by patents granted to Robert Bosch GmbH. Bosch will grant licenses to manufacturers and universities. For more detailed information about licenses and royalties refer to http://www.can.bosch.com/content/License.html. No CAN license is required for CAN applications based on CAN devices from a licensed manufacturer.
Another crucial milestone for the success of CAN was the establishment of CAN-in-Automation (CiA) in 1992. CiA is the international users’ and manufacturers’ organization, whose activities are based on members’ interest, participation and initiative.
At the present time, the automotive and vehicle industries still dominate the sales of CAN controllers and single-chip controllers with integrated CAN controller at a margin of about 80% to 20% for other applications. The 20% portion represents numerous applications in various non-automotive markets.