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New sensor lets cars see clearly

23 Oct 2008

A CMOS sensor from STMicroelectronics could lead to more-efficient driver-assistance systems.

Advanced driver-assistance systems could benefit from a high-dynamic range CMOS sensor intended specifically for vision-based automotive applications.

Developed by STMicroelectronics, the new VL5510 sensor feeds the decision-making vision processor that activates functions such as active braking and lane-departure warnings. These features are currently being rolled out on passenger vehicles and are planned to become mandatory in Europe for heavy vehicles from 2013.

"The sensor's detection capabilities dramatically increase the reliability of vision-based advanced driver-assistance systems, even in the most difficult environmental conditions," said Marco Monti of STMicroelctronics' automotive product group. "We have created a dedicated device that can help avoid accidents."

The VL5510 has a 1024 × 512 pixel format, making it suitable for the wide-angle products commonly needed in automotive environments. Other features catering for driver-assistance systems include a high sensitivity of 7.14 V/Lux, very low dark current of 33 aA/pixel and high quantum efficiency in the near-infrared region.

The sensor can output a frame rate of 34 fps and features a fully programmable image size.

According to STMicroelectronics, the device is currently sampling to lead customers, and will be in mass production in automotive applications in early 2009.

It is estimated that more than 90% of all automobile accidents involve human error and that many of them could be avoided with automated warning systems.

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