Automotive supplier ZF (Friedrichshafen, Germany) has presented its next camera generation with the Smart Camera 6. The company highlights the technology used as an important building block in the development of automated driving and safety systems.
The new camera generation merges various sensor data in its Image Processing Module (IPM), a modular and flexible control unit focused on processing camera and other sensor data. The fusion of up to 12 camera signals thus enables, among other things, a detailed 3D all-round vehicle view and the recognition and management of complex traffic situations. The required processing power is provided by a SoC of the EyeQ6 family from ZF partner Mobileye.
Cameras are regarded as indispensable for implementing advanced ADAS and autonomous driving (AD) systems. They provide important information to identify lanes, traffic lights, traffic signs and, of course, various types of objects on or next to the road. Cameras are also very good at detecting movements across the direction of travel.
In addition to higher computing power, the Smart Camera 6 with 8 megapixels also has more than four times the image resolution of its predecessor, the Smart Camera 4.8. At the same time, the horizontal field of view increases from 100 to 120 degrees. This helps to identify oncoming or crossing objects as early as possible, especially in city traffic or on tight bends.
Smart Camera 6 supports automated driving functions
For the Smart Camera 6, the manufacturer uses the latest EyeQ6 processor generation from its long-standing partner and supplier Mobileye, with whom the ZF group has been working since 2008. System upgrades, such as those to improve performance or activate new functions, are possible for the Smart Camera 6 via over-the-air updates. The model helps vehicle manufacturers to comply with safety regulations such as GSR2 (General Safety Regulation of the EU) and to receive top marks in safety tests – such as from Euro NCAP. The camera also supports system architectures that meet international automotive grade requirements such as the functional safety criteria according to ASIL-B.
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Comprehensive sensor technology is the prerequisite for autonomous driving functions of tomorrow. For a vehicle to be able to move autonomously, it must first recognise its environment completely and reliably and map it in data. This is achieved by fusing a wide variety of sensor data. Sufficient computing power is needed in real time to combine the sensor information into a clear picture. In addition to the ZF ProAI supercomputer, ZF also has a control unit in its portfolio that is particularly suitable for fusion for camera data: the Image Processing Module 6 (IPM 6). The modular and flexible control unit also uses an EyeQ6 processor and is the solution to the increasing demand of advanced driving and comfort functions that will be realised in the future in increasingly centralised E/E architectures with fewer but more powerful ECUs. As a scalable module, the IPM 6 offers up to twelve inputs for cameras as well as several inputs for radar, ultrasonic or lidar sensors. It thus reduces the number of ECUs for ADAS and AD functions – and subsequently also the complexity in the vehicle, which simplifies the assembly process.
By fusing camera and radar data, the Image Processing Module enables a number of ADAS functions at Level 2, Level 2+ and Level 3, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic emergency braking and automated parking. The Image Processing Module can be configured to support various camera, radar and ultrasonic sensors to meet specific customer requirements.
The open, modular and scalable system approach also facilitates software configuration and validation at the vehicle level. The IPM 6 is Autosar 4.x compliant, protected against cyber attacks and uses Ethernet/CAN interfaces.
Production of the Smart Camera 6 and IPM 6 is expected to start in 2025.