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Automobile rear-view camera technology set to play major role in improving road safety

With advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) technology fundamental to the long-term goal of autonomous driving, opportunities for automotive imaging applications are growing rapidly. One area where there is currently significant activity is rear-view cameras – thanks both to the advantages they offer and legal requirements to make them mandatory on new vehicles.

Figures published last summer by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that in the United States alone there are over 200 deaths per year resulting from ‘backing up’ incidents.

In nearly a third of these cases the victims are young children (under the age of six), who are often difficult to see using mirrors alone. As a response to this, legislation across North America (in both the United States and Canada) will make the inclusion of rear-view cameras mandatory in new cars/vans/light trucks from the middle of 2018.

There are other dynamics driving the adoption of such imaging systems elsewhere in the world. In Japan, rapid progression is being made in relation to vehicles without side-view (or rear-view mirrors). By replacing mirrors with camera technology, car models will exhibit less aerodynamic drag, enabling improvements in fuel economy.

Advanced rear-view technology makes it possible for potential obstacles to be identified in real time and for the ADAS to either alert the driver or take control of the vehicle. Next generation camera systems are increasingly accompanied by sophisticated processing resources. In addition to greater visibility, these can provide the driver with additional information – for example overlaid trajectory lines on the screen, highlighting hazards that will arise if the vehicle continues on in its current course.

Implementing these imaging systems into automotive designs presents a number of challenges. Pressure to save space and reduce BoM costs means that engineering teams increasingly demand modular solutions that have compact form factors and support accelerated design cycles.

To address these challenges, Toshiba has developed a reversing camera reference design, which is based on the company’s high performance TMPV7502 processor and CoHOG image recognition algorithms. Supporting back-over prevention and backward collision warning functions, it comprises a camera/image processing unit and a display board.

The reference design is based on four interconnected flex PCBs meeting the challenging requirement that the combined camera and image processing hardware fits in a space very similar to that previously occupied by the camera module alone.

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