Controller Area Network CAN schedulability analysis: Refuted, revisited and revisedReport as inadecuate

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Real-Time Systems

, Volume 35, Issue 3, pp 239–272

First Online: 30 January 2007Received: 05 September 2006Accepted: 02 January 2007


Controller Area Network CAN is used extensively in automotive applications, with in excess of 400 million CAN enabled microcontrollers manufactured each year. In 1994 schedulability analysis was developed for CAN, showing how worst-case response times of CAN messages could be calculated and hence guarantees provided that message response times would not exceed their deadlines. This seminal research has been cited in over 200 subsequent papers and transferred to industry in the form of commercial CAN schedulability analysis tools. These tools have been used by a large number of major automotive manufacturers in the design of in-vehicle networks for a wide range of cars, millions of which have been manufactured during the last decade.

This paper shows that the original schedulability analysis given for CAN messages is flawed. It may provide guarantees for messages that will in fact miss their deadlines in the worst-case. This paper provides revised analysis resolving the problems with the original approach. Further, it highlights that the priority assignment policy, previously claimed to be optimal for CAN, is not in fact optimal and cites a method of obtaining an optimal priority ordering that is applicable to CAN. The paper discusses the possible impact on commercial CAN systems designed and developed using flawed schedulability analysis and makes recommendations for the revision of CAN schedulability analysis tools.

KeywordsController Area Network CAN Fixed priority scheduling Non-pre-emptive scheduling Schedulability analysis Response time analysis Priority assignment policies Robert I. Davis received a DPhil in Computer Science from the University of York in 1995. Since then he has founded three start-up companies, all of which have succeeded in transferring real-time systems research into commercial product. At Northern Real-Time Technologies Ltd. 1995–1997 he was responsible for development of the Volcano CAN software library. At LiveDevices Ltd. 1997–2001 he was responsible for development of the Real-Time Architect suite of products, including an OSEK RTOS and schedulability analysis tools. In 2002, Robert returned to the University of York, and in 2004 he was involved in setting up a spin out company, Rapita Systems Ltd., aimed at transferring worst-case execution time analysis technology into industry. Robert is a member of the Real-Time Systems Research Group at the University of York, and a director of Rapita Systems Ltd. His research interests include scheduling algorithms and schedulability analysis for real-time systems.

Alan Burns is head of the Real-Time Systems Research Group at the University of York. His research interests cover a number of aspects of real-time systems including the assessment of languages for use in the real-time domain, distributed operating systems, the formal specification of scheduling algorithms and implementation strategies, and the design of dependable user interfaces to real-time applications. He has authored-co-authored over 370 papers and 10 books, with a large proportion of them concentrating on real-time systems and the Ada programming language. Professor Burns has been actively involved in the creation of the Ravenscar Profile, a subset of Ada-s tasking model, designed to enable the analysis of real-time programs and their timing properties.

Reinder J. Bril received a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. both with honours from the University of Twente, and a Ph.D. from the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, the Netherlands. He started his professional career in January 1984 at the Delft University of Technology. From May 1985 until August 2004, he was with Philips, and worked in both Philips Research as well as Philips’ Business Units. He worked on various topics, including fault tolerance, formal specifications, software architecture analysis, and dynamic resource management, and in different application domains, e.g. high-volume electronics consumer products and low volume professional systems. In September 2004, he made a transfer back to the academic world, to the System Architecture and Networking SAN group of the Mathematics and Computer Science department of the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven. His main research interests are currently in the area of reservation-based resource management for networked embedded systems with real-time constraints.

Johan J. Lukkien has been head of the System Architecture and Networking Research group at Eindhoven University of Technology since 2002. He received an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. from Groningen University in the Netherlands. In 1991, he joined Eindhoven University, after two years leave at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include the design and performance analysis of parallel and distributed systems. Until 2000 he was involved in large-scale simulations in physics and chemistry. Since 2000, his research focus has shifted to the application domain of networked resource-constrained embedded systems. Contributions of the SAN group are in the area of component-based middleware for resource-constrained devices, distributed co-ordination, Quality of Service in networked systems and schedulability analysis in real-time systems.

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Author: Robert I. Davis - Alan Burns - Reinder J. Bril - Johan J. Lukkien


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