The software for self-driving cars, or even for full collision-avoidance systems, may be years away, but the sensors are already here. Today automobiles are studded with sensors from companies like Bosch, Denso, Eaton, Melexis, Mitsubishi, Optek and Osram. Such parts will be the eyes and ears of tomorrow's advanced safety systems.
There are five distinct categories of range-finder sensors:
• Long-range ¾ 200 meters: 77-GHz radar.
• Medium-range ¾ 150 meters: > 300-GHz infrared.
• Near-range ¾ 80 meters: video cameras.
• Short-range ¾ 20 meters: 24-GHz radar.
• Ultrashort-range ¾ 4 meters: > 20-kHz ultrasonic.
Frost & Sullivan predicts that collision avoidance will be the feature that propels electronic- sensor systems into new automobiles. Currently, Mercedes-Benz S-class vehicles are equipped with 24-GHz radar that can provide emergency braking when accidents become inevitable. In addition, radar-based adaptive cruise control is found in the BMW 3 series, the Volkswagen Passat, several Mitsubishi models, and Mercedes-Benz and Toyota cars.
The next applications of sensors and video cameras, according to Frost & Sullivan, will be object-classification services that warn of vehicles in the driver's blind spot and accidental lane departures, and that provide heads-up night vision.