Are you smarter than a sensor?

By Andrew Burt

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Welcome back, or, if you’re checking out our blog for the first time – welcome! This post is the second of an initial series of three looking at the automotive space; rest assured that future installments will explore other facets of the image sensor business, as well.

As I mentioned in our inaugural post, I attended and spoke at the TU-Automotive Conference in June. Speakers representing companies throughout the automotive ecosystem, and beyond, addressed a host of topics ranging from data crunching and monetization to security and infrastructure challenges. In addition, ethical and moral issues were debated surrounding autonomous cars, which we’ll be touching on in a future post.

The folks at TU Automotive have encapsulated some of the conference highlights – you can read their Day 1 and Day 2 summaries of the event. I’m going to cherry-pick a couple of the comments highlighted, and add a few observations of my own.

Our focus, of course, is the role played by image sensors. Capturing and processing images is a critical aspect of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and bringing advanced vision system technology to fruition is key for autonomous vehicles. As several speakers noted, however, the public is leery of autonomy, and consumer expectations need to be set appropriately. As Jude Hurin with the Nevada Dept. of Motor Vehicles emphasized, autonomy needs to be introduced to the driving public as not just another automotive innovation, but a major milestone – a tipping point in our relationship with our cars.

Facilitating acceptance will rely on optimizing the consumer experience. David Miller of Covisint cited Gartner’s prediction that, by 2020, more than 26 billion connected “things” will be installed. This, of course, includes connected cars – 150 million of which will be on the road by 2020, according to IHS Automotive (see Figure 1). What we want is ease of connection, and new cars will integrate wireless car connectivity (cellular, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc.) with ADAS and autonomous driving.

Figure1a

Of course, all this connectedness heightens the need for security – witness the widely reported vulnerabilities discovered in some types of vehicles. A large-scale hacker attack could cause serious pileups and confusion. Joe Fabbre of Green Hills Software stated the need for a security architecture that identifies critical system components and separates them from untrusted code, with strict access control enforced.

These points are representative of some key themes that emerged from the conference:

  1. Connected car disruption is happening NOW
  2. Ecosystem and business models are expanding exponentially
  3. Data management is a key challenge: process, predict and – most importantly – protect data
  4. Drivers want an integrated experience – navigation, entertainment, news/weather
  5. As noted earlier, sensors – imaging and others – are a critical connectivity component enabling ADAS and autonomy

I’d like to end with an anecdote that ties back to the title of this post, regarding my own recent experience piloting a rental vehicle equipped with the latest in ADAS technologies. I was attending Toshiba’s annual sales conference, and had reserved a rental car at the airport in order to pick up my colleagues flying in from Japan and take them to our hotel. It was a brand new SUV, and, as one tends to do when driving a rental, I acclimated to the vehicle “on the fly.” I soon learned that, today, this is a whole new ball game.

I pulled onto the freeway and sishutterstock_149847923gnaled to change lanes. As I began to move over so that I could pass another vehicle, I felt a sudden tapping on my left leg – firm enough that I was quite startled and thought perhaps my muscles were rebelling against sitting too long. A few minutes later, when I moved to change lanes again, I felt the same sensation on my right leg. With my colleagues chatting amongst themselves in Japanese behind me, I was left to my own thoughts, and I briefly wondered if I was having some type of neurological episode. Of course, I soon realized that the SUV’s side-mirror image sensors triggered the internal notification sensors that were sending me “are you sure you want to do this?” signals.

It was definitely an eye-opening experience – made even more so when I commenced the process of pulling the massive vehicle into what looked like a too-small parking spot. Up popped the heads-up display across the lower half of the windshield to guide me in, like landing a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier. Being familiar with these technologies in the abstract is very different from using them first-hand. It gave me valuable insight into the consumer experience – and reminded me that from now on, I should take a few minutes to look over the manual when I get a fully loaded rental car!

See you next time – and if you’re not already following Image Sensors World, be sure to check out this important industry blog.

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