As the auto industry starts to bring more connected cars to market, it's clear that other industries will reap the benefits, too.
Camera makers and suppliers, for instance, will certainly see a boost, if new market data proves right and if proposed legislation eventually passes. Various sorts of visual-gathering equipment will be needed if carmakers have to enhance rear, front, and surround view features, and feed up data to widely-discussed, grid-like transportation systems aimed at improved road safety, traffic flow, and driver attention.
Case in point: SBD, a specialist consultancy on automotive technology, is expecting almost 25 million cameras to be fitted to cars in Western Europe each year by 2020. A significant part of the growth will stem from the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) Safety Assist protocol coming into force from 2014, the firm notes in its recent report.
Brussels-based Euro NCAP organizes crash-tests and provides consumers with independent safety performance assessments of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe. The latest Safety Assist protocol revision, along with some other Euro NCAP updates, makes it harder for cars to earn a five-star rating, among other things, according to car safety sites, including this one.
car–has developers working away on new functions and features.
Smile, you're backing up
On the other side of the ocean in the US, there has also been a considerable amount of talk about a proposed mandate for light vehicles to have a backup camera. Automotive News reported that the proposal seemed to be a done deal last year, but that within the last few months, things have gone mum.
According to the news clip, auto safety regulators had proposed requiring these cameras in new vehicles by as soon as 2014, and many expected the rule to be released last December. But, as the article notes, nothing has been finalized yet, and it seems to be stalled at the White House level.
While safety improvements will likely account for the lion's share of reasons to make cars more camera-ready, there are other cases worth making, SBD aptly points out:
The radical growth in camera-based systems is not just limited to supporting active safety applications. Equally important will be the growth in rear-view and surround-view cameras, which provide drivers with enhanced parking support. Camera technology will also be introduced for monitoring drivers’ attentiveness and may even act as an enabler for automated driving.
The key questions SBD asks are well worth repeating here for the EBN audience — how should OEMs and tier-one suppliers choose camera technologies, and how are they navigating through the maze of options, which range from niche camera specialists to mass market giants?
The follow-up question I'll add is how are auto OEM and car-systems integrators developing sourcing, buying, and related supply chain strategies to support what could be a significant step-change for auto designs. Again, as SBD noted:
Cameras have so far been introduced by OEMs in a piecemeal manner. However, as the number of cameras grows it is becoming increasingly important to optimize the vehicle sensor architecture so that an affordable business case can be achieved.
The piecemeal part doesn't surprise me — it always takes time for trends to take hold. But, now seems to be as good a time as any to start thinking about the business case around this. There appears to be opportunities waiting in the wings for those willing to seize them.