Issue: May 2014


Infrared technology allows cars to see in poor light



by Esther Francis




Accident research shows that a significant percentage of traffic accidents could have been prevented if cars were fitted with the latest sensor technology that “sees” in poor light conditions. 

Electronic systems can react more quickly and prevent accidents through measures such as automatic emergency braking. The reliable monitoring of traffic in front of the car is crucial to these systems. Optical components from Regensburg-based OSRAM Opto Semiconductors play a key role in these multidimensional applications. 

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Sevugan Nagappan, OSRAM Opto Semiconductors’ Infrared Marketing Manager how the company’s technology is allowing motor manufacturers to offer options such as pre-crash sensors, heads-up displays and drowsy driver detection. 

Nagappan: Our team has nearly 40 years of experience in product development, production and application support. We specialize in semiconductor technology. From LEDs, both visible and infrared, to laser components, OSRAM products are key to the success of these new active safety innovations. Beyond active safety, LED and Laser technology play a key role in new innovations inside the vehicle that enable comfort and convenience to both drivers and passengers. 

AI: Tell us more about your company’s automotive infrared components. 

Nagappan: Infrared light sources play a central role in the development of automotive systems. We have technology that enables systems to monitor driver behavior, recognize patterns and alert the driver when symptoms like fatigue and lack of concentration are evident. We are also working on enhancing adaptive front lighting to provide greater safety by developing products that can literally provide just the right light in every driving scenario. The system is able to control the distribution pattern. 

AI: What are the main applications at present? 

Nagappan: We have a unique competence for opto semiconductors from ground-breaking innovations to game-changing consumer applications. Our laser diodes and infrared components are ready to use or can be customized for special needs or requirements. OSRAM Opto Semiconductors offer a strong portfolio of power IRs for illumination applications like night vision; highly reliable IRs and lasers for safety applications; a wide range of emitters and detectors for sensing applications like rain sensors, steering wheel angle sensors or optical switches; and of course gesture recognition applications, which are growing in the future. 

AI: How will IR technology transform the way in which we drive and interact with vehicles? 

Nagappan: IR technology has already begun to transform the way we drive and will continue to do so given that improving traffic safety is an ongoing initiative for both automakers and suppliers. Infrared solutions will help make future technologies possible. 

AI: How have advances in automotive LED lighting helped bring new consumer focused features into vehicles? 

Nagappan: LEDs allow endless possibilities for interior design in the vehicle. From custom colors to unique welcome and exit themes, lighting brings ambiance and comfort to the vehicle interior. 

AI: Tell us about the latest breakthroughs OSRAM has made in these areas. 

Nagappan: There are several breakthroughs that we are currently working on but one area that our team is very excited about is bringing gesture recognition technology to the automobile. Using proximity sensors and infrared LEDs, the content of a display can be controlled without pressing a button but simply by using hand movements. This sensor acts as an intelligent switch and can replace mechanical switches, sliders, rotary knobs, etc. Detection ranges up to 20 metres are achievable. 

AI: What were some of the automotive technologies OSRAM showcased at CES 2014? 

Nagappan: OSRAM Opto Semiconductors highlighted its LED and infrared components which enable greater driving safety and customization for the automotive industry, as well as LED technology that allows for new consumer focused features inside the vehicle. Beyond automotive, OSRAM demonstrated LEDs for projection, stage lighting, mobile phones and gesture recognition. 



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