How Many Cameras Will Your Next Car Have? 13 Ways Cars Got Smarter via collision avoidance, night vision, blind spot cam
Are there any cameras in your car now? How many more do you expect to see in the near future? You may be very surprised, as cameras are becoming more and more prevalent in the cars, as they have a wide variety of uses, including:
- Backup Camera
- Intelligent Parking Assist
- Lane departure warning
- Automatic windshield wiper
- corner look-ahead
- blind-spot camera
- Night-Vision Camera
- Collision avoidance
- Adaptive High-beam
- Driver Monitoring
- Insurance and Security
- Self-Driving Car
- Saving Fuel
More are coming in the future
Modern SUVs are higher off the ground, leading to reduce visibility out the rear. To compensate for this, many manufacturers have added 'backup camera' to their vehicles.
Usually the camera is hidden either at the rear license plate area, or on the bumper itself. You can also buy retrofit kits that mounts it on the license plate frame. Then a monitor inside the vehicle will display the image.
This camera can also help you park your car into tight spots. Many of the "auto-park" systems require backup camera to work.
Auto- and Semi-Auto Parking Assist
Parallel park a car is a tough challenge, so much so that it is a required item on American driver license tests (and probably everywhere else). What if the computer and camera can help that as well? After all, many cars already have a backup camera, right?
Parking Assist comes in two versions: semi-auto, and full auto.
Semi-auto version shows you steer angles (i.e. where you car will go if you leave the steering wheel at a certain angle overlaid on the backup camera. You can see such a display below at "Corner Lookahead" system, as the BMW 7-series is equipped with such a semi-auto system. Basically, it will help you sense the cars around you and give you hints, but it will not actually steer for you.
Full auto version, on the other hand, simply have you designate the space you wish to go into, then touch a button, and let go of the steering wheel. The car will park itself. Really.
Lane Departure Warning
Some of the high-end vehicles, such as Mercedes-Benz, have lane departure warning systems. Basically, a camera is added to the rear-view mirror, that monitors the road ahead, and recognizes the lane markers, and judge if you are in the middle or not.
If your car is about to drift out of the lane, the system will sound warning and/or shake the wheel to warn you, and perhaps even initiate small braking maneuver to bring you back into middle of the lane.
Automatic Windshield Wipers
Ever wonder how some cars will trigger windshield wiper automatically? Is there a moisture sensor? Nope. Camera is at work. Usually, it's the same camera as the lane departure warning system, looking at the front. After all, LDW system needs to see, right?
So when LDW system senses that the windshield is unclear, it will trigger the wipers to go off. It really is that simple.
The BMW 7-series is one of the first vehicles available with optional side cameras that virtually eliminates blind-spots. Mounted in the wheel arches, and bumpers, as well as on the rear roof, this "driver assistance package" allows you to look to the side even when you personally can't see a thing. It is hard to describe, so just look at this BMW video and see for yourself.
Land Rover has a system that has FIVE cameras. You can even choose which camera(s) to display on the in-car monitor. There is even a bit of pan-and-zoom available.
Both systems were developed by Valeo.
Night-Vision Infra-Red Camera
Cadillac was the first manufacturer to include night-vision in their 2000 Deville. It features a passive IR camera, mounted behind the engine grille, that projects IR image onto the windshield in a head-up display. This makes people and animals visible even with the headlights off.
Toyota followed in 2002 with an active system that included IR headlights to improve resolution and range. It was only available on the Toyota Landcruiser / Lexus LX470 model at launch.
Latest versions highlight pedestrians and animals, making the vehicle even safer.
Currently, both active (with IR headlights) and passive (no IR headlight) systems are available on high-end models. Some systems will display the image on the windshield as head-up display, others display an image on the dashboard display, yet others use the center console display.
Blind Spot Camera
In all vehicles, there is a "blind-spot" from your 3 o'clock position to your 5-o'clock position, and another from 7 o'clock to 9 o'clock, that are not covered by your direct vision, peripheral vision, or the mirrors. Many accidents are caused by not checking the blind spot properly.
Volvo came up with a system, that mounts under each side mirror, that basically is a set of two cameras (one for each side mirror) that aims backward, so it can warn you if there's something in your blind spot and you're thinking about merging that way.
Can a vehicle actively help you prevent a crash? Absolutely. Volvo's "City Safety" system is available now. A radar will sense obstacles ahead and engage your brakes so your vehicle will be stopped in city traffic even if you forgot to hit the brakes.
Toyota is testing PCS, which stands for Pre-Collision System. With two cameras mounted in the windshield, plus a millimeter wave radar behind the engine grille, the system knows exactly how far away the object is, and how much time you have to avoid it. If it judges that you cannot stop in time, it can actually take control of the steering wheel and steer you away from a collision! Obviously this logic is combined with side cameras and blind spot cameras to make sure you don't cause even more collisions.
Automatic highbeam headlights isn't new. A system that will turn off your highbeams when there is another car coming in the opposite direction had been around since the 1980s. However, the latest technology promises to improve upon that.
The compromise is as eternal as automobile itself: if you use the high beam, you may dazzle the guy coming the other way. If you use low beam, you may not see well enough yourself. What to do? Mercedez-Benz in 2008, came up with a system called "high-beam assist". Basically, it is a front-mounted camera that can sense where are the other cars ahead, are they coming your way, and adjust the output of the headlights and actively SHAPE THE LIGHT CONE so the light points at the ground ahead of the other car, instead of AT the other car. The system also adjusts the light cone to point further away as you speed up and point closer in as you slow down. It will even point left and right slightly (about 15 degrees) as you turn.
Driver Monitoring System
What if your car can look at you, and determine if you are getting too drowsy to continue driving safely?
It's not a fantasy, but a real system. Toyota introduced "Drive Attention Monitor" in 2006 for top-end Lexus models. A small camera mounted on the dashboard / steering column and IR light emitter looks at your face and tries to see your eyes. If your eyes are not visible for extended periods (you are dozing off) or if your eyes are not looking ahead at the road for extended periods of time, the system will sound an alarm, shake the steering wheel, and if you still don't respond, brake and stop the car.
Insurance and Security
Law enforcement have placed cameras in their vehicles for years, and the technology has now reached civilians, both for security and for insurance purposes.
The bus industry have adopted the technology very early, and systems already exist that combines internal, external, GPS, and vehicle data into a single recording. Now the same technology is available for taxi cabs, limos, shuttle vans, and other vehicles. Indeed, many taxicabs already have such camera technology to give a little more security to the drivers. (Or as in the case of the footage to the right, nail his *** to the wall.)
Cameras will be the heart of the future self-driving cars. In 2009, DARPA's "grand challenge" have autonomous vehicles navigate a course out almost in the middle of nowhere, off the pavement. The winner that year is Stanford's "Stanley", which uses a combination of cameras and lasers to navigate, and GPS as backup.
The camera system senses the road ahead, and the computer software combines the input from the lasers to determine the "clear road" ahead, and the input is combined to determine the valid path, and what speed to take it at, as well as get steering signals.
Watch this footage from MYRIDE as one of the engineers explain how the vision system works on Stanley.
Can a camera help you save fuel? It can if it is also connected to data network.
Researchers from MIT and Princeton have developed SignalGuru for smartphones, which, by using a smartphone's GPS and camera, senses traffic lights, traffic patterns, and your own speed. It can give you enough speed hints so you can go through as many traffic lights without speeding up and slowing down. This results in 20% fuel savings in test scenarios, according to researchers. It works best with fixed-length signal lights, but will still work with the so-called "adaptive" signals (which adjust time length based on traffic density).
While the app was developed for smartphones, there is no reason why it cannot be integrated into the car itself, given all the other cameras already onboard, or coming soon.
As cars get smarter they need to sense their world better, and one of the simplest ways is to let them see, both the environment, and the interior, so they can help keep you safe.
What new application will they find for camera in the car next? Stay tuned.
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