May 122011

More and more, we’re hearing about vehicle safety systems that use video cameras to identify hazards.

Like us humans, automotive supplier Continental’s recently announced ContiGuard forward-looking braking system has two eyes, in the form of two high-resolution CMOS cameras, and a suite of electronics that enables it to analyze the difference in perspective between the left and right views – similar to the parallax shift which our brains also use to create spatial vision when processing images.

The cameras in the ContiGaurd vision system are mounted 20 centimeters (8 inches) apart in a housing located behind the windshield. Unlike a single-camera system, say its designers, it can determine not only how far an obstacle is from the front of the car, but also how high that obstacle stands over the road.

By combining the two images and analyzing which aspects of them are the same and which are different, the system is also said to excel at recognizing objects even when several of them are close together, or in low light or poor contrast conditions. Details that may be questionable in one camera’s image can be confirmed – or ruled out – by looking for those same details in the other image. In this way, it can more accurately identify things such as pedestrians or crossing traffic, even if the driver doesn’t do so fast enough.

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