Cameras extend driver's vision

By: 
February 26, 2001

Dearborn, MI -Even if you drive a king-of-the-road SUV, at one time or another you've probably wanted to see around an even bigger SUV or truck. Now Ford has developed its Traffic View(TM)system to enable a driver to view all around a vehicle.



The ELMO USA pencil-sized cameras of the Traffic View system cover both forward and rear-facing blind spots.

Gary Strumolo, senior staff technical specialist in research and vehicle technology, and his design team have come up with a system that places small, low-cost video cameras on a Lincoln Navigator demonstrator called the CamCar. This concept vehicle will help Ford explore the issues, including ergonomics and robustness, of camera vision systems.

"While the first application is toward long-vehicle vision needs, the system can also be used to provide views for small cars," says Strumolo. One component of the system uses two ELMO USA (Plainview, NY) pencil-diameter cameras angled out to the rear and mounted in what first appear to be side marker light housings on the front fenders. The cameras each use one of ELMO's standard lenses to provide a 49 degrees angle of coverage, more than double that of any mirror, notes Strumolo. Images from the camera are displayed on the left and right side lobe screens of a three-screen display in the center of the instrument cluster.

How effective are these? I always thought that by slightly overlapping the side and rearview mirror views, coupled with my peripheral vision, that I had a good view to the rear. Traffic View revealed one of Strumolo's colleagues "hiding" from the mirrors off to the left side, in a blind area between the side mirror image forward to my eye's field of view.

Two similar forward looking cameras are mounted on the outside of the sideview mirrors. To avoid any view ambiguity on the display, a button on the steering wheel must be held down to keep the forward looking cameras displayed on the side screens. Because of their 22 degrees view angle and outboard position, these cameras allow the driver to "see around" vehicles immediately ahead-useful in making left turns in traffic or spotting cars and pedestrians entering the road on the right.

Hindsight. In addition, four cameras are mounted in a fan configuration in the rear window. Each of their views is stitched together via computer algorithms to provide a seamless overall image of a 160 degrees arc across the rear. A 60 degrees slice of this, which can be panned left or right (or a view zoomed in or out in a 4:1 ratio), is shown on the center screen of the display. Such features would not necessarily be used while underway, but rather to look around the vehicle when waiting for someone or to provide security.

Other features on the CamCar include a rear-facing NightEye low-light (0.004 lux) camera viewing the area immediately behind the vehicle for safe maneuvering. (The other cameras need 20 lux to operate.) A second "hitch camera" allows easier backing up to a trailer hitch for a hookup.

The driver's display uses ThinCRT technology

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