Sony's Major Breakthroughs in Automotive Image Sensor Technology

In October 2014, Sony Corporation announced that it would commercialize image sensors for automotive use. Having positioned automotive as one of the focus areas of its image sensor business, Sony has released a number of highly advanced products in this area that boast industry-first features and capabilities.

At CES 2018 (Las Vegas, NV), Sony will showcase further breakthroughs in this field: advances in image sensor technology that give vehicles evolved vision as society moves towards the advent of fully autonomous driving. Demonstrations of how the sensors detect their 360-degree surroundings, even under backlit or unlit conditions, and help vehicles quickly evade danger will be shown at the show. Additionally, visitors can experience how wide-angles, telescopic zoom, high speed and high sensitivity images captured with the advanced image sensors differ from what they actually see with their own eyes.

With the goal of developing image sensors that surpass the human eye, Sony is committed to continually improving image sensor performance in areas such as sensitivity in unlit areas, resolution for telescopic and wide-angle photography, as well as dynamic range performance in backlit environments. Through such initiatives, Sony aims to realize the recognition of a surrounding environment, even in driving conditions where the human eye would struggle to see.

Major Announcements to Date

Sony Commercializes the World's Highest Sensitivity*1 CMOS Image Sensor for Automotive Cameras (October, 2014)
Sony announced the commercialization of the IMX224MQV CMOS image sensor for automotive cameras, which boasts the world's highest sensitivity levels*1. This sensor is capable of capturing high-resolution color images even in light conditions as low as 0.005 lux, which is even darker than a star-filled night sky. Mass production and shipment commenced in May 2016. This sensor allows the quick and effective detection of obstacles and people in parking lots, on dark nights, and in other situations that would challenge the naked eye.

Sony Acquires Softkinetic Systems S.A. (October, 2015)
Sony acquired a Belgium-based company, Softkinetic Systems S.A.*, which possesses time-of-flight ("ToF") image sensor technology for distance detection. Combining the technological expertise of both companies, Sony is developing its future solutions for the areas such as smartphone, robotics, and automotive. ToF image sensors are already being applied in the automotive field to enable gesture control, and going forward they will be used for an ever-increasing range of applications crucial to the realization of advanced autonomous driving. These include the development of HMI (Human Machine Interfaces) that can track the status of drivers and passengers.
*From December 2017, the company name was changed to Sony Depthsensing Solutions Holding SA/NV

Sony Commercializes the Industry's First1 High-Sensitivity CMOS Image Sensor for Automotive Cameras, Delivering Simultaneous LED Flicker Mitigation and High-Quality HDR Shooting (April, 2017)
IMX390CQV is equipped with an LED flicker mitigation function that reduces flickering when shooting LED signs and traffic signals, as well as an HDR function capable of 120dB*2 wide dynamic range shooting, and made it possible to do both simultaneously. It is capable of accurately recognizing traffic signs with LED and adjacent vehicles' LED lamps while capturing high-quality images with a wide dynamic range, even in situations with a wide contrast gap, such as when entering or exiting tunnels during daylight hours. The product is ready for use in forward-sensing cameras and cameras for Camera Monitoring System (CMS), an application expected to grow as a substitute for conventional rearview mirrors, and expected to show persons and obstacles on an in-car monitor with clear visibility.  Sample shipment began in May 2017.

Sony Releases Industry's Highest Resolution*1 7.42 Effective Megapixel Stacked CMOS Image Sensor for Automotive Cameras (October, 2017)
Sony Corporation released the IMX324, a CMOS image sensor equipped with the industry's highest resolution*1 7.42 effective megapixel for forward-sensing cameras in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). Sample shipment began in November 2017. This image sensor is capable of high-definition image capture of distant road signs up to approximately 160 meters*3 ahead. Furthermore, this image sensor is expected to be compatible with the "EyeQ®4" and "EyeQ®5" image processors currently being developed by Mobileye, an Intel Company, for use in ADAS and autonomous vehicle technology.

And at CES 2018, Sony will be introducing its "Safety Cocoon" concept, which signifies the creation of an area of enhanced safety around a vehicle where it can monitor and detect the 360 degree surroundings and prepare for danger avoidance from an early stage in a variety of driving situations. By evolving cars' "eyes" through image sensor-based viewing and sensing, Sony aims to contribute to quickly enabling a higher level of safety and to advance the realization of autonomous driving in society.

*1: As of the time of respective announcements.
*2: In accordance with the EMVA1288 standard. The dynamic range is 110dB when using the HDR function and LED flicker mitigation function simultaneously.
*3: With a FOV 32° lens on the camera.

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