Can vs LIN bus interfaces in automotive electronics

Modern cars have more electronics than you can think of. Almost every vital part has tons of sensors on it with 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 a reliable connection interface is needed.

CAN interface

Probably you’ve already heard of CAN bus (Controller Area Network). It is a standard bus interface used in most vehicles where the board computer communicates with separate control ECUs taking care of the engine, gearbox, climate, security alarm, safety bags. CAN devices are connected by using twisted pair signal wires that are more resistant to noises. Signals usually operate at the 5V level. The transfer speed can reach up to 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. For instance, there can be a situation when several masters start communication at the same time. In this case, there is a message priority used to determine which one will have the right to transmit data first. 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 reconfiguring the existing setup.

CAN vs LIN interface

CAN interface is a complex interface allowing to have multiple masters what makes it robust and versatile. But due to the increasing 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. They came up with LIN (Local Interconnect Network) bus.

LIN bus interface is a 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 slave node). LIN can be implemented merely as a sub-function in the CAN-LIN interface using USART in the RISC microcontroller. CAN transceiver is a sophisticated device, so it usually comes as a separate peripheral or as a separate chip. LIN uses a single wire for communications with about a 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. On the other hand, where efficiency isn’t a ‘must’ factor, it serves as a cheap complement to the CAN network.


  1. Edmonton Chrysler

    I’m no tech savvy but I am aware that my driving skills won’t be as good as when I don’t have electronic gadgets showing on my dashboard. With all cars fitted with automotive electronics, auto maintenance and operation have been enhanced. Of course, with the current hard times in our economy, finding cheaper solution, like substituting CAN bus with LIN bus interface might be practical in terms of cost. However, efficiency is still a contending factor.

    • Yeah, you are no tech savvy, since we would use LIN everywhere, if it would be enough. Yet we can’t allow LIN to forward the messages of the airbag functions. You want the airbag to explode in your face a milisecond later? Look up what happens.
      And your driving skills would be a lot worse. You have servo steering, you have ABS and so on. Wanna live without those? Buy a car before 1970, or earlier, then cry about the price of technology.

  2. I totally agree with you Edmonton.

  3. Great article! Adding to the conversation, providing more information, or expressing a new point of view I suppose is the meaning of commenting. Taking for granted that blog commenting still is a great tactic, it should at least be done the right way.

Leave a Reply