Driver assistance technologies are evolving rapidly. Just looking back three years alone at what was predicted in terms of the application of camera-based technologies, a lot has changed. Matthew Beecham talked with Akira Kondo, general manager of Denso Corp’s driving assistance and safety engineering department and Yoshihiko Teguri, chief engineer of Denso Corp’s information and safety systems research and development department about the company’s driver assistance systems.

just-auto: As I understand it, multi-function cameras are forming a core technology for advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). These cameras will be cheaper, more effective and easier to integrate than radar and infra-red systems. Is that correct?

Akira Kondo: We believe that the multi-function camera is an important technology for ADAS. However, we think that the camera and other technologies such as radar will coexist. This will depend on the design of ADAS.

j-a: What can these multi-function cameras offer?

AK: In the future, the multi-function camera can be applied to various applications, including: lane departure warning, forward collision warning, auto high beam, adaptive driving beam, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian recognition, driving environment, and so on.

j-a: While I guess the camera optics are fairly similar, the additional functions require different computer processing power, is that correct? What is involved in the development and engineering? Presumably, the extra cost of adding more functions is small compared to the camera?

AK: It can be said that applying a multi-functional camera with high computer processing power is more beneficial than adding a dedicated camera.

We think it is important for system development to adopt advanced semiconductor technology, as well as evaluating applications’ specifications and costs that meet markets’ needs.

j-a: Traffic sign recognition is a clear benefit of camera-based technologies. How do you see this market evolving in Europe?

AK: In addition to safety benefits, traffic sign recognition technology could also contribute to fuel saving. We see traffic sign recognition technology as a promising function in the automobile industry and expect it to grow in many regions including Europe.

j-a: Could you explain the technology being developed and/or used by Denso to detect pedestrians and what is involved in achieving that? Does it involve radar or lidar?

AK: To realise pedestrian detection technology, we are considering two options – using the camera alone, and using the combination of the radar, lidar and camera.

j-a: What about side- and rear-facing cameras? What do you see happening there?

Yoshihiko Teguri: As one possibility, side- and rear-facing cameras might be applied to applications such as lane changing warning.

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

YT: Yes. A sonar or short-range radar can detect obstacles that might collide with the vehicle. Based on the risk of collisions, the parking assistance system can alert the driver so that the driver can avoid unexpected accidents.

j-a: To what extent is map data and positioning information of navigation systems being developed to improve driver assistance functions? What more needs to be done in this area of navigation-based ADAS?

YT: With the improvement of DAS, more accurate and extensive location information and detailed road shape (curvature, gradient, number of lanes, crossing, lamp, and so on) information would be required. It is because some future applications require detailed road information ahead of several minutes drive, i.e. more than 1km.

Since the conventional vehicle’s autonomic sensors such as radar and vision sensors can detect only 30-150m, we are developing map updating technology, technology that utilises GPS, QZS and INS. In addition, we are also developing the fusion technology of radar and vision sensors. It complements the accuracy of ADAS.

j-a: As you know, from 2013, all new trucks sold in Europe will be required to have emergency braking capability and lane departure warning. Could you explain the technologies Denso has been developing and/or has in place to manage these requirements?

YT: We are ready to comply with these requirements. What we think is important for diffusing these technologies is realising low costs that fulfil customers’ expectations.

j-a: Braking is one thing, yet I guess steering and allowing the system to select the right path for the driver is another. How do you see automatic steering intervention evolving?

YT: Automatic steering intervention is a delicate issue, so we must take a prudent approach. For example, collision avoidance by brake is essentially safer, because the vehicle speed comes down. But, collision avoidance by steering can lead to greater damage, because the vehicle speed does not change. When changing course it could lead to a collision with another big obstacle. Also, if the vehicle is steered toward a pedestrian, it could lead to critical results. So, there needs to be a complete understanding of the surrounding environment to plan for a safe route to avoid collisions. The challenges are the accuracy and range of surrounding sensor, such as radar, camera.

j-a: In terms of blue-skies research, I guess connectivity is the next step, i.e. linking vehicles together wirelessly through sensor technology?

YT: We believe that communication technology – both vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure – are highly effective in reducing traffic accidents. We participate in experimental projects held in Japan, US, EU, and supply on-board equipment.

See also: RESEARCH ANALYSIS: Review of driver assistance systems