OmniVision Technologies, Inc., a leading independent supplier of CMOS CameraChip(TM) image sensors for high-volume applications, today unveiled near infrared (NIR) capability, an important proprietary enhancement, to its portfolio of single-chip automotive CMOS image sensors.
With integrated NIR capability, OmniVision’s automotive sensors can operate in dual mode, allowing them to function equally well in both day and night vision applications, and thus eliminate the need for two separate solutions. The NIR capability significantly improves functionality for automotive safety and security applications while allowing OEMs and automotive manufacturers to simplify system designs and reduce the overall system bills of material.
The new night vision capability is made possible by the development and successful implementation of a number of process-level enhancements that expand the sensor’s spectral light sensitivity up to 1050 nm, the equivalent of NIR sensitivity. This enhanced sensitivity enables OmniVision sensors to perform object detection in complete darkness with the support of only a few very low-power light emitting diodes (LEDs) and allows automotive cameras to see both beyond and outside the range of a vehicle’s headlights.
“We have significantly enhanced the versatility of our sensors by providing our customers with a product that can perform exceptionally well in both day and night vision applications,” commented Inayat Khajasha, Senior Product Marketing Manager at OmniVision. “During daylight hours, our sensor provides a standard color image and then, as soon as natural light levels fall below a pre-determined Lux level, the sensor automatically switches to black and white night vision mode.”
The dual mode night vision capability offered by OmniVision’s sensors is especially useful in driver assistance and safety applications, such as pedestrian, object and sign detection, as well as rear view or backup camera applications. A growing number of automotive security applications are also using image sensors, one example being ‘black box’ anti-theft camera systems that record video when activated by motion detection around or inside the vehicle. These sensors provide excellent night vision using just a single, low-power LED, which has a negligible effect on vehicle battery life, so the system will remain active even when the vehicle is not operated for lengthy periods of time.
“The development of many automotive security applications that effectively utilize night vision capabilities is being driven in part by the automotive insurance industry,” Khajasha added. “Vehicles with these monitoring and recording systems qualify for lower insurance premiums because they reduce the risk of theft, vandalism and other vehicle-related crimes.”
OmniVision’s automotive sensors incorporating NIR night vision capability are currently being sampled by multiple automotive customers. OmniVision plans to offer NIR capability as a standard feature across its entire line of automotive products.