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Embedded Vision For Driver Assistance: An Aftermarket-Enabled Transition, Albeit Via Camera Phone Assimilation?

Government regulation coupled with manufacturer motivation seems to be building a "perfect storm" that's poised to push image sensors and vision processors into automobiles in a big way, specifically for driver-assistance purposes (rear-view augmentation, front-view collision avoidance, lane departure warnings, and the like). That's all well and good for new vehicle makes and models, of course, but what about the cars and trucks already in drivers' possessions? Aftermarket suppliers are already stepping up to fill the void, just as they've done in the past with devices such as CD changers, satellite radio receivers, and Bluetooth hands-free setups.

Last May, for example, EVA founder Jeff Bier demonstrated the Mobileye vehicle safety system installed in the family minivan:

And just this morning, he forwarded me a snapshot taking from his Las Vegas taxi, which is also Mobileye-enabled:

I suspect that the driver is less resistant to a front-facing camera than a vehicle interior-facing one!

However, just as with many other functions formerly handled by standalone devices, vehicle safety is poised to be subsumed within camera-inclusive cell phones...or so say companies such as iOnRoad. The software developer currently offers a http://www.gizmodo.com/5858478/ionroad-for-android-when-phones-in-cars-make-them-safer-not-deathtrapsfree Android-based collision avoidance app and took advantage of this week's Consumer Electronics Show to make two announcements:

  • An Apple iOS-targeting version of the app is coming in the next few months, and
  • The Android app has been augmented with lane departure warning support

iOnRoad makes an interesting pitch. Many folks already have their smartphones housed in vehicle docking stations, predominantly for GPS and speakerphone applications, but potentially also for red-light-avoidance and other more exotic purposes. Assuming that the docking station's location within the car enables the cell phone's back-mounted camera to have a clear view of the road ahead, a usage scenario such as the one iOnRoad envisions is certainly feasible. And given that the app runs in the background, you can continue to use the phone to take and make calls, obtain driving directions via GPS, stream Pandora radio through your sound system, etc.