Safety technology has become a major selling point for car shoppers, and a new front-sensing camera co-developed by Vauxhall and Opel will give GM's European brands something to brag about. The new camera, which will be available on the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia beginning early 2009, is located between the wind screen and the rear-view mirror. The camera sees what's ahead at 30 frames per second and uses two processors to both read road signs and tell drivers when they're straying from a lane.
The road sign reader works by scanning the road ahead for recognizable shapes and signals, then displaying information like speed limits or no passing zone signs in the digital display in the middle of the gauge cluster. Depending on conditions, the camera can recognize signs up to 100 meters away.
The lane departure system works by sounding an alarm whenever the driver strays out of a chosen lane. The digital display will also show the driver that the vehicle is drifting, which can help drivers that may have a hearing impediment.
If the recent hand-me-down program between Opel and Saturn continues to blossom, we may have both the car and the camera Stateside before we know it. Hit the jump to see an animation showing how the camera works. You'll also scope out the Vauxhall press release.
Vauxhall/Opel front-sensing camera
THE ALL-SEEING VAUXHALL: INSIGNIA FIRST WITH FRONT CAMERA SYSTEM
* Leading technology available in early '09
* Reads road signs, improves safety
* Warns drivers when they stray from their lane
Luton. Vauxhall introduces a first: a dual-function camera that not only reads speed limit and no-overtaking signs and displays them on the instrument panel, but also alerts drivers when they unintentionally veer out of their lane. Known as Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning, the two systems improve driving safety, reduce stress and can even prevent costly speeding tickets.
"These new features follow Vauxhall's philosophy of enhancing driving excitement by assisting drivers without reducing their level of control," explains Hans Demant, Managing Director of GME Engineering. "That means the system gives drivers information, but it doesn't intervene."
Known as the Front Camera System, the wide-angled, high-resolution camera and processors were jointly developed by Vauxhall/Opel engineers and specialists from supplier Hella. The camera, located between the windscreen and the rear-view mirror, detects road signs and lane markings. It's not much bigger than a mobile phone, yet can take 30 pictures per second. Two signal processors filter and read the photos.
Depending on light conditions, the Traffic Sign Recognition function begins to repeatedly read signs at 100 metres. It starts by focusing on circular patterns then identifies the numbers inside them via contour comparison. When a match is found in the car's software, the sign is displayed in the instrument panel; it will even prioritise a no-overtaking sign over a speed limit warning sign.
When the Lane Departure Warning function is turned on, it uses a second signal processor and software to read traffic lanes and record a driver's normal lane-changing behaviour, taking into account steering input and indicator usage. If any deviation is detected, an audible and visual warning is sent from the instrument panel, preventing hazardous situations, such as a driver falling asleep at the wheel.
The Front Camera System, featuring Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning will be available as an option on the new Insignia, with other Vauxhall models benefiting from the system in future.