Visteon Expands on Base Functionality of Cameras in the Car
By Anthony Ciatti
There’s a growing trend in today’s vehicles that many consumers may not have seen developing: cameras.
Backup cameras, forward-view cameras for radar-based features, eye-tracking cameras for drowsy-driver applications – the list of cameras making their way into vehicles continues to expand. Along with these cameras, many other applications can be integrated to take advantage of this new hardware.
Visteon recently created a concept to showcase its innovative approach to using cameras in vehicles. Our Camera-Based Cockpit concept was conceived while engineers brainstormed around a video game gesture controller. The team thought it would be a good idea to think of other ways to use cameras in the car. After testing 80-plus potential use cases, we decided to create a demonstration product and work toward tighter integration of the concepts and technologies that the driver can enjoy.
The concept employs three cameras aimed at different points around the vehicle. The first is the driver camera, situated near the instrument cluster and pointed at the driver's face. The second is the external camera, which would be located in the front of the car, pointing toward the road. The third camera would also be pointed toward the driver, but focusing on their right hand to track gestures – although it could be used for other tasks as well.
At Visteon, we are always asking questions when innovating. Having these cameras work together was a primary goal. With more cameras coming into the vehicle in the near future, why not dual purpose the driver-facing camera so it also captures facial recognition? And why not also track the driver's facial features? What can we do with this information? How can we make the driver's tasks easier?
The end result is exciting. The driver camera will recognize the person entering the car, allowing the system to load their settings into the system. This could include seat position, phone synchronization, radio favorites, preferred map destinations and a host of other features. This all happens before the driver even shifts into drive. That same camera can track the driver's facial attributes to estimate where their attention is focused, and react accordingly.
Meanwhile, the exterior camera would be scanning the landscape for potential hazards or information. The capability to read road signs and watch for pedestrians exists today, but Visteon sought to take it a step further by making the system “smart” and determining what information the driver actually needs. For example, the driver doesn't need to know that there is no left turn if the vehicle is not in that turn lane. By combining pedestrian detection with driver attribute tracking, the system is able to warn drivers if they are not looking at an oncoming pedestrian and if there is an immediate danger. This is accomplished by using two cameras that are already on many vehicles today.
Another concept we have tested and are introducing is gesture controls. Visteon is working to determine which gestures would be accepted by drivers and to what extent. The camera-based concept demonstrates how, through gestures, the driver can operate the user interface without even touching the screen.
One last potential benefit of using cameras in the vehicle to complete multiple functions is cost reduction. For example, if a camera is located in an area that can see the entire interior, it would also be able to determine if there was someone of the appropriate size to activate the passenger side air bag in the seat. An air bag sensor would no longer be needed. Similar cost-saving ideas should be abundant once the full potential of designing cameras in the car is realized.
Anthony Ciatti is an innovation manager with Visteon’s global electronics innovation team. He specializes in discovering new technologies and developing approaches to seamlessly integrate them into vehicles. During his eight-year career, Anthony has worked in software development, controls and product innovation.