The rate at which technology is changing personal transportation is astounding. But the rate at which it is accelerating is even more impressive.
Just a few short years ago, rearview cameras were optional extras reserved only for luxury cars. These days, you can even get them on inexpensive compact sedans.
As auto manufacturers rush to cram in more premium features into their entire vehicle line-up (including Bluetooth audio streaming, collision mitigation braking), cars that are only five years old might as well feel like they are ten years old from a technical features standpoint.
Automotive camera technology
Camera technology, in particularly, has jumped leaps and bounds. Just a few years ago, even the highest end luxury vehicles had low-resolution, grainy images from a single perspective.
These days, the latest camera systems boast high quality images in day or night and even from multiple angles.
In this article we’ll take a closer look at 360-degree panoramic camera systems, the next evolution of active safety camera technology.
What is it?
360-degree camera systems create a virtual all-around view of your vehicle in order to show any obstacles surround it in order to ease fears of parking.
The key to these systems are four fisheye cameras that are mounted at the front , rear, and in the rearview mirrors to provide a complete perspective, also known as a bird’s eye view.
Special software then stitches all of the images together into a single video feed displayed in the vehicle’s infotainment system, giving the impression that there is a camera mounted 50 feet above the roof of your vehicle pointing downwards.
The development of intelligent surround view systems for cars and trucks makes parking in tight spaces a cinch, and practically guarantees a perfect parking job each time. More importantly, these systems help to prevent collisions with pedestrians.
Many systems offer the driver the ability to zoom into a specific perspective, such as the curb-side view or rear view, which is particularly useful in dark and rainy nights.
360-degree camera systems also take the upcoming US federal mandate to a new level. This mandate specifies that all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds have to have backup cameras by mid-2018. While Transport Canada has no such regulations as of yet, Canadians still get to benefit from in-line changes that many vehicle manufacturers have implemented.
The US Congress called for these rules in 2008 after a spate of highly publicised accidents in which parents driving cars or trucks backed over their young children, tragically killing them.
Who has them?
Infiniti and BMW have both been leaders in surround camera systems. Infiniti introduced the world’s first Around View Monitor system back in 2007, and virtually all Infiniti models now have them as standard or optional equipment.
Infiniti’s latest version has been further enhanced with Moving Object Detection, alerting the driver to moving objects detected within the display image. A rear cross-traffic detection system called Backup Collision Intervention (BCI) also helps to detect crossing vehicles and can brake to help avoid a collision.
BMW arguably has the highest quality cameras and video processing hardware in the business, with photo quality-like video integrated with its Surround View system
Like Infiniti’s system, BMW’s also provides a 360-degree panoramic view around the vehicle with help from cameras in the exterior mirrors, a wide-angle camera in front, and the rear view camera. The system is activated when the car is put into reverse or at other predetermined activation points.
BMW’s Cross Traffic Assistant further assists the driver by first displaying yellow bars on the side edges of the image as well as a yellow warning triangle in the presence of crossing traffic.
The Side View function is automatically deactivated when the car reaches 15 km/h. The driver can then choose to activate the Rear View camera, Top View or Panorama Side View.