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The Backup Camera: Entrée To A Burgeoning Embedded Vision Automotive Era?

The presence of front-facing cameras built into modern cellular phones and tablet computers was initially justified for videoconferencing applications. Similarly, rear-facing cameras' primary function is to obsolete the historical need for separate standalone devices. But with the image sensors (and associated image processors) now in place, embedded vision visionaries are harnessing them for an abundance of additional purposes.

Such will, I suspect, also be the case with the cameras increasingly being added to vehicles of all types. Take, for example, the under-debate proposal by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) to mandate the inclusion of backup cameras in all vehicles by 2014 (with 10% of the new-vehicle fleet offering them by the end of next year, and 40% in 2013). As reported late last month by DailyTech, the under-consideration regulation proposed by President Barack Obama is controversial:

The backup camera rule could cost as much as $2.7 billion, and would equate to about $18.5 million per life saved. Adding the cameras to vehicles would tack on an extra $58 to $203 per vehicle.

However, some automakers are already far along on the implementation path, even without regulatory pressure compelling them to act. According to DailyTech reporter Tiffany Kaiser, for example, "Ford plans to have backup cameras in all Ford and Lincoln models by the end of this year." And once the cameras are in place, I'll be curious to see what else beyond blind spot remediation they get used for.

Autonomous parallel parking is one idea that comes to my mind. Another is an early collision alert system. Then there's the opportunity to take a snapshot of the front bumper-mounted license plate of the vehicle behind you as evidence in case of, for example, an accident initiator who flees the scene or a policy officer who abuses his or her authority. What other applications for a rear-mounted vehicle camera can you think of?