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More About Controller Area Network (CAN)

Controller Area Network (CAN)


  • Controller Area Network (CAN) protocol was initially created by BOSCH in the mid-1980s for automotive applications as a method for enabling robust serial communication.
  • CAN is an asynchronous Serial communication protocol.
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  • Controller Area Network (CAN) Bus was started in the year 1983 at Robert Bosch. In February 1986, Robert Bosch officially introduced the Controller Area Network (CAN) serial bus system at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) congress. It was the turning point for one of the most successful network protocols ever.
  • The first CAN Controller chips were introduced by Intel in the year 1987, and shortly after that Philips also introduced CAN Protocol
  • The first production vehicle was released in the year 1991 by the Mercedes-Benz W140 to feature the CAN based multiplex wiring systems.
  • Bosch published several versions of the CAN specification and the latest is CAN 2.0 published in 1991. This specification has two parts; part A is for the standard format with an 11-bit identifier, and part B is for the extended format with a 29-bit identifier. A CAN device that uses 11-bit identifiers is commonly called CAN 2.0A and a CAN device that uses 29-bit identifiers is commonly called CAN 2.0B. These standards are freely available from Bosch along with other specifications.
  • CAN bus is one of five protocols used in the on-board diagnostics (OBD)-II vehicle diagnostics standard. The OBD-II standard has been mandatory for all cars and light trucks



There are many reliable and obvious reasons why a CAN bus network is popular with Automotive Industries and IoT Solution Providers.

  • Low cost:ECUs communicate via a single CAN interface – there are no analog signal lines, and this reduces errors during communication and weight of vehicle units thus making the cost lower.
  • Centralized communication: CAN communication protocol allows for central error diagnostics and configuration of all vehicle ECUs. 
  • Robust communication: CAN bus communications are electromagnetic interference proof and are not sensitive to subsystem failures, which is very important for vehicles used in harsh conditions, for example, harvesting in very hot weather.
  • Efficient code management: CAN messages are prioritized based on IDs – the highest priority IDs are non-interrupted. This is extremely important for timely vehicle maintenance or repair.
  • Flexibility: In every ECU there is a chip that enables the unit to receive transmitted messages, decide its relevance, and act in accordance with the message. This makes the system customizable and allows adding extra nodes, such as CAN bus data logge


Initially CAN was created for only Automotive Purpose, the most common part of application in CAN was In-Vehicle Electronic Networking. Moreover, many other industries came to realized such benefits and advantages of CAN Protocols over the past 20 years, they have come with the idea of using this bus for the wide variety of applications. Mostly used applications was listed below;
  • Passenger vehicles, trucks, buses (combustion vehicles and electric vehicles)
  • Agricultural equipment
  • Electronic equipment for aviation and navigation
  • Industrial automation and mechanical control
  • Elevators, escalators
  • Building automation
  • Medical instruments and equipment
  • Model railways/railroads
  • Ships and other maritime applications
  • Lighting control systems

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