A new single-chip sensing technology introduced 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."