Rearview Cameras Crucial for Vehicle Backup Safety

Drivers backing up cars, vans, and trucks cannot see anything immediately behind their vehicle.  Each year, this problem accounts for an estimated 300 backover fatalities and 18,000 backover injuries.  Tragically, many of these accidents involve small children.  In 2008, Congress approved a law to establish rear visibility standards, possibly requiring rearview or backup cameras in all cars, but the legislation was put on hold in March, in order to “ensure the most protective and efficient rule possible.”

Cameras placed at the rear of the car have been found to be the most effective way to alert drivers of people in their back-up path.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a report in 2006 entitled “Vehicle Backover Avoidance Technology Study.” The report concluded from its testing that ultrasonic and radar sensor technology is ineffective for this purpose and that vision-based cameras had the greatest potential for success because “the rearview camera systems typically provided drivers with the ability to see pedestrians in the majority of the rear blind zone areas.”

Vehicle Blind Zone

Image from “Vehicle Backover Avoidance Technology Study” by NHTSA and USDOT.

Blind zones become larger as car size increases; for instance, the driver of a Cadillac Escalade has a blind zone ranging from 30 to 100 feet behind the vehicle.  Many newer vehicle models do include rearview cameras to address this issue, such as this one: the BMW X3 xDrive 35i backup camera.

BMW X3 Rearview Camera

The BMW X3 Backup Camera

Kasalis believes that there is indeed great potential in rearview video systems to prevent backover accidents.  In the hope that Congress revisits this legislation sometime in 2012, and rearview cameras become standard, we look forward to working with automotive cameras a great deal in the near future.

Not All Cameras Are Created Equal: Mini Tablet Cameras v. Apple Cameras

A bevy of seven-inch (or so) tablet computers have been the focus of a flurry of online gossip recently, including the Google Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7, and the rumored Kindle Fire 2 and Apple iPad Mini.

The Google Nexus 7 (credit: PC Advisor)

A low resolution 1.2 MP camera is included in the Google Nexus 7.

The questions on our minds, at Kasalis, are these: how are people going to use these small tablets?  And is there potential for better cameras to be a part of the design?  It appears that the answer to the latter question is yes.  For the rumored ones, of course, there are no camera specs available (although the new Kindle Fire is expected to include one).  However, we do know that the Google Nexus 7 includes a measly 1.2 MP, front-facing camera.  One would think that given the smaller, seven-inch tablet’s greater portability, customers might use it more frequently for photography than they would a larger, 10-inch tablet, if given the opportunity.  However, Google’s philosophy is apparently to sell its games and apps to buyers, not to sell the Nexus as an all-purpose device that can also be used for photography.

Going in the opposite direction from this apparent tendency toward low-end cameras among the small tablet computers, an Apple patent application was recently published for a device with a switchable camera module (AppleInsider).   It appears to be intended for an iPhone, so although this is a different market than the tablets, it is still pushing the bar higher in regard to cameras for portable electronics.  We at Kasalis tend to agree with this approach.

Apple Patent Illustration

The patent application, entitled “Back Panel for a Portable Electronic Device with Different Camera Lens Options,” notes that as the quality of digital images taken with highly compact devices increases, users seek even more sophisticated features.  The iPhone currently does not allow for replaceable or mountable lenses.  Apple’s solution is a portable device that features a removable back panel that would allow for customized lenses.

 

Apple Patent Illustration

Apple’s system would redesign the imaging module to include the infrared cut-off filter on the removable panel, which would allow photographers to remove it and capture black-and-white images at very low light levels.  The optical component could also feature a close-up lens, reducing the focal distance and allowing for very close-up photography.

We hope the industry continues to raise the bar in overall camera quality to push the boundaries of what we know and advance technology in camera modules.