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The Camera-Ready Car

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.

All-seeing

The proliferation of cameras in cars--outside of this Google camera  car--has developers working away on new functions and features.

The proliferation of cameras in cars–outside of this Google camera
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.

Questions aplenty
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.

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37 comments on “The Camera-Ready Car

  1. Houngbo_Hospice
    April 23, 2013

    “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.”

    If SBD got the prediction right, road safety will certainly be improved and accident occurences will be minimized. How will the price of camera-ready cars compare to the one for non camera equipped cars?

  2. William K.
    April 23, 2013

    Once again we see that the way to assure a huge profit in the safety equipment market is to bribe enough politicians into making your product mandatory. Sorry about being so blunt about it, but safety does not sell! Style sells, convenience and luxury sell, but safety does not sell. If it did, everybody would be driving Volvos, and we can see that is not the case. So a backup camera may make it possile to back up with better visibility, but no number of backup cameras will make people more attentive while backing up. And it should be quite clear that any statistics about the thousands of people killed every day in backing-up accidents are not readily verifieable. So we will all be paying a bit more for an add-onfeature that will be of very marginal value to most drivers most of the time, but that will be profiting the makers quite handsomely.

    If it were a feature that individual folks wanted there would certainly be a lot more of them available as aftermarket add-ons. BUT there are not.

  3. Mr. Roques
    April 24, 2013

    How about a camera that is always on and let's you take pictures as you drive? I say this because many times I've tried taking pictures of sunsets or cars in front of me and have needed to use my cell phone – it's very challenging hehe.

  4. HM
    April 25, 2013

    Having camera-ready car is a fancy option. was watching a movie where there was a tarzan car, that has option to fight back with enemies and behave like a close buddy if needed. I guess humans wants their lives to be as easy as possible. well having camera ready car is good atleast people are not distracted to take photos themselves while driving. hope this camera rady car has all camera functions zoom in out, flash on off, focus..and so on. 

  5. prabhakar_deosthali
    April 25, 2013

    Any camera fitted outside a car will be vulnerable to dust, rain, mud and so on.

    That means we require new technology cameras if they are to be used on the outside of the car.

    Are such dust proof and waterproof cameras available today at affordable prices?

  6. Houngbo_Hospice
    April 25, 2013

    @Mr. Roques,

    “How about a camera that is always on and let's you take pictures as you drive?”

    How does that kind of camera improve your diving experience? It won't be a big deal to get one installed on the car, but not all car users would want to take pictures while driving. 

  7. Taimoor Zubar
    April 25, 2013

    How does that kind of camera improve your diving experience?”

    @Hospice: I've seen cars have a camera installed at the bumper to provide a view of the surroundings while the car is being reversed. That's a pretty useful safety feature in the car and does improve the driving experience a lot.

  8. Taimoor Zubar
    April 25, 2013

    @prabhakar: That's a valid concern. However, most street cameras are especially designed to cater to this issue. The surface of the lens is designed such that the dust cannot deposit on it. I think similar technology can be used in these cameras designed for cars.

  9. Taimoor Zubar
    April 25, 2013

    @William K.: I agree that certain features in a car are absolutely useless and don't add any value at all when it comes to the drivers. Instead, as you said, car companies end up charging higher prices for them. A solution would be to offer these add-ons separately and charge the buyers additionally for these rather than making them a part of the base model and charging everyone for these.

  10. FLYINGSCOT
    April 25, 2013

    There must be a great opportunity for suppliers of cameras and electronics to process the images.  Apps like reversing, passenger recognition, collision avoidance, lane guidance, crash recording are some that I can think of.

  11. Adeniji Kayode
    April 25, 2013

    @Mr. Roques,

    Don,t you find that rather distracting when driving.

    Do you really think all these features that are given to cars to reduce accidents will not be causal agent for the same accidents we are trying to prevent?

  12. Adeniji Kayode
    April 25, 2013

    @HM,

    What do you think would be the percentage concentration of a driver taking pictures while driving or does it really matter?

  13. Adeniji Kayode
    April 25, 2013

    I agree with you on that. Which means if you need it, you go get it at the expense of your purse and not make everybody pay for what they mioght not be interested in.

  14. William K.
    April 25, 2013

    Taimoor, you are certainly correct, but the way it works is that very few would purchase many of the features, and the cost of providing many variations in features would reduce the profit. So the result is that such features become standard. Even worse, some things that may possibly make things safer for a small minority wind up becoming mandatory items, required by law, because somebody was able to lobby congress into making them mandatory. The fact is that safety does not sell. When seatbelts were first offered as an extra cost option, very few folks bought them. So the seatbelt makers lobbied for them to be mandatory, and now we all pay for them because it is the law. But seatbelts are a good feature. Airbags were also an option at one time, until they were lobbied into being required. But I really don't like having an explosive charge a foot away from my chest. Unfortunately, I have no choice in the matter. Some senator who believes that he is much smarter than me has made it a law. THAT is how things work in the safety business. Money talks and wisdom walks.

  15. hash.era
    April 29, 2013

    I think this is really cool to have but a bit risky as well. No privacy plus the safety of driving smoothly without having any doubts is not there when you see it.            

  16. itguyphil
    April 29, 2013

    In New York, there's the AirTrain. It's on a track so it's less failure prone but I think there needs to be more AI into autos free flowing in traffic

  17. Adeniji Kayode
    April 29, 2013

    For an Air Train, this is not a problem at all. To a large extent, you still have a large percentage of your concentration to yourself.

    Well, I think the mentality of manufacturers are the fact that whatever they produced, we will always adjust to it over time

  18. itguyphil
    April 30, 2013

    Yes. I remember when bluretooth devices first came out.

    Everyone was so fearful and opposed to using them because of the convenience. Now if you take a look in public, how many people do you see using them… a lot!

  19. Jennifer Baljko
    May 2, 2013

    @pocharle – More AI could be interesting to see.  computers can respond faster than human, so maybe better alerts for things like braking on wet roads could be helpful. But then again, there is room for for error – especially if drivers get too dependent on their cars to think for them and stop paying attention altogether. Who knows, though, maybe the Jetson space car is not too far away afterall 🙂

  20. _hm
    May 2, 2013

    How does this Camera work in snow, rain and fog conditions for example? I would also like them to perform well in very low light condition too.

    If camera becomes manadatory, how authority can detect it to enforce law?

     

  21. hash.era
    May 24, 2013

    @pocharles: Seems very interesting indeed but the cost (investment) will be very high if so.    

  22. itguyphil
    May 24, 2013

    It will be at first like more new innovations. But the more demand there is, it will start to be produced by more & cost less down the road. This could potentially be the new norm some day.

  23. hash.era
    May 25, 2013

    @pocharle: Yes with demand it will rise for sure. I think it wont take much of a time to get demand for such things.  

  24. elctrnx_lyf
    May 26, 2013

    I'm sure the cameras will be of a great assistance for the novice drivers while they park the vehicles. But I'm not really sure what are the other applications of the camers in car. But as the car becomes more and more electronic the thrill in driving might slowly fade.

  25. itguyphil
    May 26, 2013

    No with more demand, the price will start to go down. Production will rise.

  26. hash.era
    May 27, 2013

    @pocharle: Do you think with more demand the price goes down at every occasion? I don't think so. It happens if there is good competition for you. 

  27. hash.era
    May 27, 2013

    @electrnx: Yes I too feel the same since if so the real feeling of driving a vehicle is lost.    

  28. hash.era
    May 27, 2013

    @electrnx: Yes I too feel the same since if so the real feeling of driving a vehicle is lost.    

  29. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 27, 2013

    @_hm,

    I don't expect cameras to become mandatory on cars. But most cars manufacturers will likely include them in the overall design to follow the trends to sell more cars. 

  30. Houngbo_Hospice
    May 27, 2013

    @pocharle,

    “with more demand, the price will start to go down. Production will rise.”

    It all rolls down to the law of supply and demands. But is also depends on the usefulness of the feature. If I am well off with non camera cars, I will probably not buy a camera-ready car, just for the sake of having one.

  31. Wale Bakare
    May 27, 2013

    @hash.era, too many cameras around us, where's privacy? i think more talks we have on privacy more ineffective the policies on privacy. 

  32. Adeniji Kayode
    May 27, 2013

    @_hm,

    You may not fancy that much but that may be a good idea to another person.

  33. itguyphil
    May 28, 2013

    There aren't many cases for the contrary when it comes to technology, consumer devices at least.

  34. itguyphil
    May 28, 2013

    You're right. A lot of people think that way. But then there's the crowd that likes to follow fads and be in the 'in crowd'.

  35. hash.era
    June 30, 2013

    @pocharls: Why do you say so mate ? 

  36. hash.era
    June 30, 2013

    @Wale: I think we have created the situation with data breaching and un-authorized access towards the systems. We have to face the consequences for it. 

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