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Imaging technology transforming the automotive industry

15 Nov 2016

2D, 3D and night vision cameras are “exploding” into the automotive sector, says analyst Yole Développement.

Systems based on visible, 3D and night vision cameras are exploding into the automotive space, according to Yole Développement, the Lyon, France-based market research and strategy consulting company. In its latest assessment of imaging technology for the sector, published this week, Yole predicts that revenue will grow at 20% CAGR between 2015 and 2021. And considering total systems sales value, revenue is expected to hit S$7.3 bn (€6.8 bn) in 2021.

Amongst the nine market segments identified by Yole’s analysts, cameras designed for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are the most important category, which alone will represent 51% in revenue by 2021. Cameras designed for display purposes are also critically important applications, which, says Yole, “will clearly foster the development of imaging technologies.”

Titled Imaging Technologies for Automotive 2016, the report details the range of imaging technologies, related applications and market sector forecasts. Analysts describe the related ecosystems and the competing landscape. Covering technologies such as visible cameras, solid-state lidars, LWIR cameras and 3D cameras, the report also offers a technology development roadmap through to 2021.

Four trends

The automotive sector is facing a massive transformation, says Yole, driven by four key trends: environmental efficiencies, safety, digital connectivity and shared mobility. The company states, “imaging technologies are part of a sensing revolution. We invite you to look at a snapshot of this innovative wind of change in which autonomous driving will become a big part of the story.”

Capitalizing on innovative technologies initially developed for smartphones, electronics has gradually invaded the automotive sector. Today, imaging technologies are taking center stage, states the analyst: “From less than one camera per car on average in 2015, there will be more than three cameras per car by 2021,” predicted Pierre Cambou, Activity Leader, Imaging at Yole. “That means at least 371 million automotive imaging devices worldwide.”

Cameras were initially mounted for ADAS purposes on high-end vehicles, with so-called “deep learning image analysis techniques” promoting their early adoption. Dr Eric Mounier, Senior Analyst at Yole, commented, “The Israeli company Mobileye has been instrumental in bringing ADAS technology to market, along with On Semiconductor, which provided the CMOS image sensor. Copycat competition will probably pick up as the market now justifies initial investment in design and technology.”

Mounier added, “It is now a well-established fact that vision-based autonomous emergency braking is possible and and it saves life. Consequently, we believe that adoption of forward ADAS cameras will therefore accelerate.”

Big demand for 360° surround view cameras

Growth of imaging for automotive is also being fueled by the park assist application; so 360° surround view camera volume is therefore skyrocketing. While it is becoming mandatory in the United States for new cars to be supplied with a rearview camera by 2018, that uptake is dwarfed by 360° surround view cameras, which enable a “bird’s eye view”. This trend is most beneficial to companies such as Omnivision at sensor level and Panasonic and Valeo, which have become one the main manufacturers of automotive cameras.

Mirror replacement cameras are currently the big unknown and take-off will primarily depend on its appeal and car design regulation. Europe and Japan are at the forefront of this trend, which Yole believes will become “only slightly significant” by 2021. Meanwhile, solid state lidar is well considered and will start to be found in high-end cars by 2021, the analyst adds. Cost reduction will be a key driver here as the push for semi-autonomous driving will be felt more strongly by car manufacturers.

LWIR technology-based night vision cameras were initially perceived by the market as more of a status symbol than a necessity. However, they’re increasingly being appreciated for their ability to automatically detect pedestrians and wildlife. Yole concludes that LWIR solutions will therefore become integrated into ADAS systems in the future. Furthermore, 3D cameras will tend to be limited to in-car infotainment systems and driver performance monitoring. This particular technology will be key for luxury cars and therefore is of limited use today, says the analyst.

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