Mike Thoeny

Mike Thoeny

As advanced driver assistance systems are gradually being fitted to new cars, Euro NCAP's tightened safety requirements will boost such installed equipment rates over the next few years. Here, Matthew Beecham talked with Mike Thoeny, managing director, Delphi Electronic Controls North America about how the  market for certain camera and sensor based ADAS systems is taking shape.

Driver assistance technologies are evolving rapidly.  Just looking back, say 3 - 4 years ago at what was predicted in terms of the application of camera-based technologies, how has that now played out in Europe and North America?

Looking back, Delphi's strategy in the camera-based ADAS space has been consistently focused on our "one camera, multiple functions" approach.   By integrating many features into a single package, the intention was to drive greater value for our customers as they looked to move these life-saving active safety technologies from the luxury market to their full fleet.  For the most part this has played out as expected, although the take rates on these options are still ramping up as consumer awareness develops.

A key development has been the recent update to Euro NCAP that will make it nearly impossible to receive five stars without active safety content by 2016.  This is helping to drive OEM product roll out plans and will lead to greater adoption levels.  We expect to see similar developments in the United States, and we have already launched our first vision systems in China last year.

Different vehicle manufacturers take different positions on what is "too much" in terms of helping the driver steer clear of trouble.  Although most of us believe we are good drivers, the evidence shows that drivers are to blame for more than 90% of accidents.  So, I guess the most effective active safety systems are those that can provide an autonomous response if the driver cannot avoid an accident.  Would you agree?

Based on accident statistics, we believe the most effective approach is to provide the driver with a warning of potential threats, and to enable an autonomous response only if the accident is unavoidable. This keeps the driver in the loop, giving them the opportunity to take action.

As the industry marches toward the future of autonomous vehicles, we will see a number of progressions as technology matures:  earlier intervention to avoid more accident scenarios, higher braking deceleration rates and steering intervention. Reports show that active safety systems that provide crash avoidance features for passenger vehicles reduce crashes by 32 percent, injuries by 21 percent and fatalities by 31 percent.

As we understand it, multi-function cameras are forming a core technology for advanced DAS.  These cameras will be cheaper, more effective and easier to integrate than radar and infra-red systems.  Is that correct?

Delphi believes that multi-function cameras and radar are the two most important technologies for ADAS in the immediate future.  Cameras do a great job at recognising objects and provide accurate edge details, radar has excellent range and range rate detection without being impacted by lighting and visibility issues that can affect camera systems.  Sensor fusion, the combination of both radar and camera systems, can provide a highly accurate view that we believe provides the most robust solution for collision imminent braking.  Delphi's RACam is our next generation sensor fusion system, combining both radar and vision into a single compact package that leverages developments size and cost reduction.  Although camera systems will continue to improve in performance and may at some point reduce reliance on radar, for now both technologies are an important part of a complete system.

What can these multi-function cameras offer? 

Multi-function cameras will continue to proliferate, and the number of features will continue to grow as advancements are made in imagers, faster processors, reduced package size and more advanced algorithms.  Forward looking cameras can detect lane markings, identify pedestrians, cyclists and animals, interpret traffic signs, optimise headlight high beam usage, present enhanced night vision images and identify objects as part of a forward collision warning system.  Rear-facing cameras provide parking assist functions, and can be enhanced to include rear collision warning functions.  Cameras as a part of a sensor fusion system combined with radar can provide even greater accuracy for systems that provide autonomous braking and steering control.

Delphi is an experienced market leader in vision radar fusion and a market leader using 76GHz for 360 degree sensing and offers higher performance at an equivalent price point. In 2009, Delphi launched the world's first automotive multimode electronically scanning radar and in 2010, we launched the first pedestrian detection system with full automatic braking.

Traffic sign recognition is a clear benefit of camera-based technologies in the West.  How do you see this market evolving in Europe and North America?

We are seeing an increase in demand for Traffic Sign Recognition (TSR) systems across multiple customers, especially in Europe.  This is enabled by EU consistency in traffic sign designs.  However, we also expect TSR demand to increase for US customers as well.   The processing requirements for features such as TSR and pedestrian recognition is large, so developments in less expensive processors will help to accelerate these advanced camera-based products as part of the overall single camera, multiple function approach.

While we can see such multi-function cameras on the high-end and medium segment cars, do you see this technology permeating down to the low-end at all in Europe?

We will absolutely see camera technology moving into the smaller low-cost platforms for Europe.  This trend has already started, thanks to the lower cost enabled by technology advancements and the scale-effect of increased volumes.

What about rear facing cameras?  What do you see happening in North America?

Although pending legislation in the US mandating rear cameras has been further delayed, manufacturers and consumers alike have accepted this technology and the application rate has  reached nearly 50%, with a solid growth rate predicted over the next five years.  The European market has not been as interested, with much lower adoption rates.

Could existing reverse parking sensors play a greater role in partial and full parking assistance systems?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's QUBE research service