Miniature camera to improve driver assistance systems

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Driver assistance systems may soon benefit from the addition of a new type of camera module that can aid in making decisions as a driver.

Developed by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Micro-integration IZM in Berlin, the micro-camera module detects traffic signals and, unlike conventional systems, processes the image material directly inside the camera via an integrated processor. After the integrated image sensor has recorded the images, the processor evaluates the frames and the traffic signs can be interpreted.

‘The video itself no longer has to – as previously was the case – be sorted and analysed by an interposing system. Instead, only the relevant signals are transmitted,’ explained Andreas Ostmann, a graduate of physics and the group manager at IZM.

Measuring just 16 x 16 x 12mm including optics, and 16 x 16 x 4.6mm without the optics, the micro-camera is considerably smaller than its counterparts. A total of 72 passive and 13 active components (such as LEDs, DC-to-DC converters, memory chip, image sensor and image processor) had to be positioned within the module in a space-saving manner. All of the components are integrated directly into the PC board from glass fibre and epoxy resin, and by encapsulating the electronic components, the micro-camera is impervious to vibrations on uneven street surfaces.

Ostmann concluded by adding that the system’s uses can go beyond the detection of traffic signals: ‘If one programs the software accordingly, it is also possible to detect road markings. In this case, the camera is combined with a lane departure assistant. Since it also controls motion detection and detects objects such as animals, people, and their position, it can be readily coupled with a brake assistant or pedestrian safety system.’

Further potential applications include anti-theft protection, quality control, and the mounting of the camera on the dashboard in order to monitor the driver’s eyes and trigger an alarm if they close for longer than a second.

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