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Controller Area Network (CAN)


CAN, which was developed by Bosch in the early 1980's and became an international standard (ISO 11898) in 1994, was specially developed for fast serial data exchange between electronic controllers in motor vehicles. This is precisely how CAN can also be used in the implementation of industrial microcontroller networks, e.g. as an internal bus in machine tools, to interconnect distributed measurement, control and monitoring functions on the lowest automation level to a higher-level computer, or as a field bus to interconnect sensors, actuators and/or user interfaces.

The ISO 11898 standard describes the physical and the data link layer. The lower protocol levels of CAN (layer 1 and 2) are standardized in the ISO/OSI layer model. Protocols based on layer 7 (application layer) are summarized in different, partly manufacturer-specific standards. Examples for these CAN-based protocols are CANopen and J1939.

The specification can be obtained from For more detailed info about CAN in general, see the CAN history, take a look at the CAN Mailing List (canlist), use our E-learning plattform or contact


CAN FD (CAN with flexible data rate) is an enhancement of the CAN protocol developed by Robert Bosch GmbH. The main differences to CAN are the extended user data from 8 up to 64 bytes, and the ability to send user data with higher data rates. In this way, the requirements for higher bandwidth networks in the automotive industry are fulfilled, while profiting from the experiences in CAN development.

Recommended literature CAN FD:
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