Safety and Security Soar, Machine Vision Enters Automotive On Ramp

Arecent study by TRW Automotive Inc. reports that 74% of respondents say vehicle safety features and options are more important to them than they were five years ago. And all of the entries on Top 10 High-Tech Car Safety Technologies—which the automotive information source recommends consumers look for when car shopping—are sensor based. Most are self-explanatory:

  • 1. Adaptive cruise control/collision mitigation (to maintain distance from other traffic)
  • 2. Tire pressure monitoring
  • 3. Blind-spot detection/side-assist/collision warning
  • 4. Lane-departure warning/wake-you-up safety
  • 5. Rollover prevention/mitigation
  • 6. Occupant-sensitive/dual-stage airbags
  • 7. Emergency brake assist/collision mitigation
  • 8. Adaptive headlights/night-vision assist
  • 9. Rearview camera
  • 10. Emergency response (which can turn on interior and hazard lights, unlock doors, shut off fuel flow, disconnect the battery terminal from the alternator, and make crash details available to emergency personnel) (|


It's no wonder, then, that The Freedonia Group Inc. predicts global demand for light-vehicle OEM automotive sensors will advance 7.4% annually—more rapidly than vehicle production itself—to $14 billion in 2010. The company's World Automotive Sensors report says that in developed markets, only new sensing technologies exhibit strong growth prospects. While engine and drivetrain applications represent the largest category in sensor use, growth will be limited to sensors for fuel efficiency. Safety and security applications promise the greatest growth potential, followed by emissions control. Emerging markets have more basic sensor needs, many of which require technologies already recognized as commodities. Regardless of application or geography, though, sensor suppliers face a continuing mandate to deliver more capability at lower cost. (



New Market for Machine Vision


Two machine vision companies say they are up to the task. Omni-Vision Technologies Inc. is, for the first time, supplying CameraChips to a leading automotive equipment supplier for use in lane departure warning (LDW) and rearview-camera systems. (


And Cognex Corp., the largest supplier of machine vision sensors, just got larger with its simultaneous entry into "in-vehicle vision." In a news release, "Cognex Enters New Market for Machine Vision," the company announced its acquisition of AssistWare Technology Inc., maker of the SafeTRAC LDW system. Cognex chairman and CEO Dr. Robert J. Shillman expects the in-vehicle market to be "very large and potentially quite profitable."

Initially, Cognex will expand AssistWare's product to address collision warning, blind spot detection, headlight dimming and aiming, rain detection/wiper control, and adaptive cruise control. Later, Cognex plans to offer "inward-looking" sensors to address applications now covered by other technologies: Driver recognition, and determination of occupant size and position for intelligent air-bag deployment. (,