"Giving a vehicle the capability of seeing the road, the environment and the lighting conditions under which a driver is operating can be incredibly powerful," said Martin Thoone, vice president, TRW Electronics Engineering. "A multitude of things are possible from a package about the size of a deck of playing cards that can include a camera, rain sensor and the processor. Beyond the many safety benefits are the comfort and convenience possibilities such as automatic headlights and windshield wiping without the driver needing to do anything."
The camera and multi-sensor package is very small and lightweight, yet includes the processing power needed to support the many functions. The camera/sensor unit is positioned in the region of the rear view mirror mount looking outward through the windshield. Beyond automatic on-off headlamp control the camera technology can also determine in low light conditions if other traffic is in the vicinity and if not can automatically switch on the high beams for better vision at night or in tunnels.
In addition the rain sensor focuses on the windshield glass surface and uses an optical sensor that measures reflected light. The light reflection changes as moisture in the form of rain or snow falls on the windshield and the system will automatically engage the windshield wipers and can vary the speed of the wiper motor depending on the amount of moisture detected. Another feature that can be included in the sensor package is a humidity sensor that detects the amount of humidity in the vehicle interior and can activate the blower motor within the HVAC system to keep the windshield defogged.
"With so many distractions commanding the attention of today's driver, the automation of various functions can help to keep greater attention on the road ahead, and functions such as keeping the outer windshield free of moisture, the inner glass defogged and the headlights on at the optimal setting when low light conditions demand them all benefit giving the driver a clearer vision of the surroundings," Thoone said.
With 2008 sales of $15.0 billion, TRW Automotive ranks among the world's leading automotive suppliers. Headquartered in Livonia, MI, the company, through its subsidiaries, operates in 26 countries and employs approximately 60,000 people worldwide. TRW Automotive products include integrated vehicle control and driver assist systems, braking systems, steering systems, suspension systems, occupant safety systems (seat belts and airbags), electronics, engine components, fastening systems and aftermarket replacement parts and services.