Modern cars have more electronics than you can think. Almost every vital part has tons of sensors on it that has a dedicated computer called ECU (Electrical Control Unit). Usually, there are from several up to hundreds of ECU’s on a single car. Especially luxury ones. All modules have to work as an organized unit. So this is where reliable connection interface needed.
Probably you’ve already heard of CAN bus (Controller Area Network). It is a standard bus interface used in most vehicles where board computer communicates with separate control ECUs taking care of engine, gearbox, climate, security alarm, safety bags. Talking of physical interfacing CAN devices are connected by using twisted pair signal wires that are resistant to noises. Signals usually operate at 5V level. Transmit/receive can be 1Mb/s for 40m cable lengths. Engineers have put lots of thought into CAN protocol. It was designed to be flexible reliable and robust. There can be more than one master CAN device on the same bus. So there can be a situation when several masters would start communication. In this case, there is a message priority used to determine which one will have the right to transmit data. CAN nodes act as independent units and can receive any message and take action if needed. This feature is called ‘multicast.’ This allows adding new CAN devices to an existing bus without the need to reconfigure existing setup.
CAN interface is a quite complex interface allowing to have multiple masters what makes it robust and versatile. But due to the growing cost of the number of electronics used in cars, manufacturers started looking for cheaper solutions that would complement the CAN bus and be more affordable. So they came up with LIN (Local Interconnect Network) bus. LIN bus interface is more straightforward standard comparing to CAN. LIN can have up to 16 slave nodes controlled by one master. It is slower and cheaper as nodes are clocked by the master (no crystals for each node). LIN can be implemented merely as sub-function in CAN-LIN interface USART RISC microcontroller. CAN transceiver is a sophisticated device, so it usually comes as separate peripheral or as separate chip. LIN uses a single wire for communications with about 40V signal voltage level. It can reach up to19.2kbps communication speed with a maximum 40m length of the line.
After this short overview, it is evident that the LIN interface is a low band, less effective bus interface comparing to CAN. In another hand where efficiency isn’t as ‘must’ factor, it serves as a cheap complement to CAN network.