A new single-chip sensing technology introduced this week at Convergence 2008
could enable automakers to incorporate high-dynamic range (HDR) color vision
sensors in entry-level cars.
OmniVision Technologies, Inc., a maker of CMOS
image sensors, says its new technology could serve in such applications as
lane departure warning systems, blind-spot detection, traffic-light monitoring,
rain detection, back-up cameras and headlight dimming. There, it would help the
vision systems adjust to widely differing light levels and therefore
function effectively even under high-glare conditions, such as those that occur
when a driver emerges into sunlight from a dark tunnel.
OmniVision rolled out the product
for the automotive world at the Convergence
2008 transportation electronics conference Monday at Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI. Known
as the OV10620
High-Dynamic Range CMOS Image Sensor, it is said to be the first
high-dynamic range color sensor on a single chip.
"With CCD and other competing
solutions in the past, it took four or five chips to do this," says Inayat
Khajasha, senior product marketing manager for OmniVision.
The HDR technology is considered
important for automotive vision systems because it is able to operate in a
fashion much like that of a human eye under changing light conditions. The
OV10620 rapidly switches to HDR mode to handle extreme variations of bright and
dark conditions within the same scene and then automatically switches back to non-HDR
mode when conditions return to normal.
Khajasha says the new
technologies will help engineering teams to shorten their bills of material,
cut power consumption and reduce the real estate consumed by the chip-set in
the vehicle. He says real estate reduction will be important for tier-one
suppliers and vehicle manufacturers, who must squeeze the vision chip-set
behind the rear-view mirror on the windshield.
"There is very little space between
the back of the rear-view mirror and the windshield," he says. "Often, there's
not enough room for multiple chips back there."
Khajasha says the lower cost
of the compact new technology should enable color HDR sensors to move down to
entry-level vehicles from luxury vehicles, where they are used now. "With these
sensors, we should be able to put the feature on a Honda Civic," he says, "not
just on a Lexus."