Camera modules, multi-channel imaging mark key trends in ADAS design

November 27, 2017 Majeed Ahmed, Automotive Contributor

The rapidly growing automotive imaging sector has started adopting the modular solutions that allow designers to mix and match image sensors, image signal processors, and long-distance serializer modules. It facilitates the PCB real-estate savings of more than 30 percent compared to conventional solutions comprising the discrete image sensor and processor components. So far, integration challenges in the camera design phase have mostly forced automotive OEMs to develop their own modules, for which they must often wait for third-party developments. That raises the bar on cost as well as time for evaluating and testing the automotive imaging system.

Now companies like OmniVision and OnSemiconductor are providing a design ecosystem for automotive cameras serving advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), rear video mirrors, camera monitor systems (CMS), and dash cameras. For example, OmniVision’s automotive reference design system (ARDS) features the company’s OV2775 image sensor, the optional OV495 image signal processor (ISP), and serializer camera module. OmniVision claims the modular approach reduces the design efforts and resources required to develop working prototype solutions.

[Figure 1 | A view of the key building blocks of On Semiconductor's MARS imaging system]

Likewise, OnSemiconductor has made available an imaging solution that it calls modular automotive reference system (MARS). It mixes and matches the imaging components and transmission protocols using standard boards and connectors. OnSemi asserts that this level of system integration simplifies automotive camera designs and lowers overall system cost.

Multi-channel cameras

Another notable trend in the next-generation automotive cameras relates to multi-channel image processing that removes the need for a dedicated ISP chip in every camera module. Apart from lowering the overall system cost, it improves video quality and reduces power consumption.

Multi-camera synchronization support is a critical feature at a time when the number of cameras installed on vehicles continues to rise. Take, for instance, the single-chip imaging solution from Ambarella. The A9AQ family of automotive camera SoCs can simultaneously drive video to up to three in-car displays for the rear, left side, and right side electronic mirror applications. Moreover, these multi-channel camera chips ensure superior visibility in both low light or high contrast scenes.

[Figure 2 | The 360-degree surround view video uses multiple cameras to present a unified image of the vehicle. Photo via Ambarella.]

There is significant growth in ADAS, especially for surround-view and rear-view camera systems, and that makes it imperative that multi-channel camera systems are being streamlined. That, alongside highly-integrated camera module hardware, will simplify and speed up the adoption of high-quality automotive cameras operating in multiple viewing modes.

Majeed Ahmad is the former Editor-in-Chief of EE Times Asia. He is a journalist with an engineering background and two decades of experience in writing and editing technical content. He is also the author of six books on electronics: Smartphone, Nokia’s Smartphone Problem, The Next Web of 50 Billion Devices, Mobile Commerce 2.0, Age of Mobile Data, and Essential 4G Guide.

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