ZF Marshall Updates Camera Designed for ADAS Platforms

As autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles develop, cameras will play an integral role in keeping them on the road and away from other objects.

The US-based manufacturing arm of German car-parts maker ZF announced the launch of its S-Cam4 camera family. The cameras are designed for advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) platforms on self-driving vehicles.

The ZF S-Cam4 includes a single-lens mono-camera designed to help meet updated test protocols such as European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP), which includes automatic emergency braking (AEB) tests for crossing bicycles and pedestrians. The new camera family, developed in part with Intel subsidiary Mobileye, also includes a premium three-lens TriCam4 version to support more advanced semi-automated driving functions. The TriCam4 version adds a telephoto lens for improved long-distance-sensing capabilities and a fish-eye lens for improved short-range sensing with a wider field of view. The combination better supports automated driving functions like traffic-jam assist and highway driving assist, the company noted.

The company supplies ADAS sensor technologies to more than a dozen global vehicle manufacturers. The Marshall, Illinois, safety electronics facility produces control units and crash sensors for airbags, and electronics for brake systems. The adoption of these platforms is expected to grow greatly over the next decade, driven mainly by government regulations and increasing consumer awareness. Already Europe and US regulations mandate that all new cars be equipped with AEB and forward collision warning (FCW) systems.

As main sensors of the ADAS autonomous-driving era, cameras are widely used in lane detection, traffic-sign recognition, obstacle monitoring, pedestrian recognition, fatigue-driving monitoring, occupant monitoring, rear-view mirror replacement and 360-degree-panorama capabilities. Cameras are just one of several ADAS components such as radars, LiDAR, ultrasonic sensors, and electronic control unit (ECUs), that govern these autonomous and driver-assist features.

An increasing numbers of road accidents, a shift in consumer preferences towards vehicle safety and the rise of stringent regulations have made automotive cameras an essential part of the vehicle. Car insurance companies are also playing a pivotal role in the widespread adoption of cameras in the automobiles.

According to a June report by BIS Research, the global automotive camera market is estimated to hit $14.19Bn by 2026. The study noted that the automotive cameras market generated $831.7M last year alone. Mobileye will supply ADAS platforms for eight million cars under a new contract with a European automaker, the company confirmed in May. The platforms will use Mobileye’s EyeQ4 chip, which can process data from more than eight camera sensors, as well as radar and lidar.

Meanwhile, competition to develop new types of camera technology is accelerating. Silicon Valley start-up Light recently announced it had raised $121M in funding from SoftBank Vision Fund and imaging powerhouse Leica Camera.

Light’s imaging technology could be adapted for use in autonomous vehicle (AV) and ADAS platforms, and provide cameras that help self-driving cars better detect and analyze their surroundings. A June report from IHS Markit argued the trifocal camera represents a significant threat to displace stereo-cameras, and noted that the trifocal camera may replace mono-camera use in the long-term in the autonomous field.

— Nathan Eddy is a filmmaker and freelance journalist based in Berlin. Follow him on Twitter.


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