Researchers in Germany have created a miniature camera module for driver assistance systems, which they say could help to reduce the number of road accidents each year caused by sleepy drivers.
Unlike conventional driver assistance technologies, the tiny camera relies on an integrated image sensor and processor to record and evaluate images.
"The video itself no longer has to – as previously the case – be sorted and analysed by an interposing system," said Andreas Ostmann, a graduate of physics at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration. "Instead, only the relevant signals are transmitted."
The advantage of this is that the amount of data transmitted and processed is significantly reduced.
Because the camera is so small (it measures just 16 x 16x 12mm3), the researchers say it can be integrated directly into the vehicle without taking up too much space.
Mounted on the dashboard, it is designed to detect driver fatigue by monitoring a user's eyelids. If they remain shut for more than ffive seconds, for example, it sends them an alert to wake them up.
"If you program the software accordingly, it is also possible to detect road markings," Ostmann continued.
"In this case, the camera is combined with a lane departure assistant. Since it also controls motion detection and detects objects such as animals, people, and their position, it can be readily coupled with a brake assistant or pedestrian safety system."
A total of 72 passive components and 13 active components, including LEDs, DC/DC converters and a memory chip, make up the device.
All of these were integrated directly into the PC board from glass fibre and epoxy resin, using a novel assembly technique called 'embedding'.
This allowed the camera to remain impervious to vibrations on uneven street surfaces.