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Introduction to CAN

The CAN (Controller Area Network) protocol is an international standard defined in the ISO 11898 for high speed and ISO 11519-2 for low speed.

CAN is based on a broadcast communication mechanism. This broadcast communication is achieved by using a message oriented transmission protocol. These messages are identified by using a message identifier. Such a message identifier has to be unique within the whole network and it defines not only the content but also the priority of the message.

The priority at which a message is transmitted compared to another less urgent message is specified by the identifier of each message. The priorities are laid down during system design in the form of corresponding binary values and cannot be changed dynamically. The identifier with the lowest binary number has the highest priority. Bus access conflicts are resolved by bit-wise arbitration on the identifiers involved by each node observing the bus level bit for bit. This happens in accordance with the "wired and" mechanism, by which the dominant state overwrites the recessive state. The competition for bus allocation is lost by all nodes with recessive transmission and dominant observation. All the "losers" automatically become receivers of the message with the highest priority and do not re-attempt transmission until the bus is available again.

The CAN protocol supports two message frame formats, the only essential difference being in the length of the identifier. The CAN standard frame, also known as CAN 2.0 A, supports a length of 11 bits for the identifier, and the CAN extended frame, also known as CAN 2.0 B, supports a length of 29 bits for the identifier.


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