Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vision systems hit the road

I’ve posted more than a few articles about how automotive applications represent a huge market for machine vision, and if you’ve been new car shopping recently you’ll have seen some of these. Backup cameras with guidance overlays are pretty common now, and blind spot detection systems are rapidly spreading down market. Perhaps more importantly, collision detection systems are also beginning to emerge.

Clearly, this all leads to autonomous vehicles where we will be just passengers. And I predict that once the technology is proven and accepted, governments will mandate its use on the grounds of safety. But how will that acceptance be achieved?

I suggest there are two factors: cost and fun. For buyers to select the machine vision package for their new car it will have to be relatively inexpensive. Yes, I’d pay a few hundred dollars more for these technologies, but not several thousand. Second, it’s all a bit boring unless we can have cool interactive displays to entertain us on our commute. Sort of like, say, a cell phone app?

Which is where Picitup is launching a paradigm shift. So far mainstream thinking seems to be to add all these vision devices to our car. Picitup are proposing that we add them to our cell phones. Here’s a movie that illustrates the concept.

iOnRoad is a machine vision app that promises to turn your smartphone into vision system that makes driving safer. No details of the algorithms are available but I assume it combines GPS and image data to generate safety warnings like that shown in the movie.

I think you can see where this is going, and it’s an interesting threat to those who want to sell vision-based safety systems to the vehicle builders. A fun driver assistance ‘toy’ will probably meet rapid consumer acceptance, but people won’t want to buy it from their car dealer. Instead, they’ll expect to download it onto their phone. A few years from we’ll all expect vision assistance in our cars, leading to an expanding role for the technology, but who will deliver it?

No comments: