By Desmond Bentley
Sooner than you may realize, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) will be standard accessories in cars, trucks and buses.
"In 10 years every new car in the world will include ADAS," predicts Isaac Litman, CEO of Mobileye Products
, the Jerusalem-based global leader in the ADAS market.
"This new technology helps drivers drive better," he explains. "We have the statistics to prove this. Vehicles fitted with Mobileye ADAS have now traveled over a billion miles in the US, with a 40-50 percent drop in accidents."
The Mobileye ADAS
Mobileye's ADAS systems recognize cars, bikes, motorbikes and pedestrians, and can warn drivers of an impending accident in time. They can tell you if another car is about to enter your driving lane, or if you are deviating from your lane. They can even stop the car if the driver doesn't react quickly enough.
Litman points out the three primary causes of accidents: poor roads, unsafe vehicles and bad driving. "In most countries, roads and vehicle design have improved significantly in the past three decades -- but that cannot be said for drivers. In the 1970s and 1980s there were more serious accidents. The number of deaths from car accidents has dropped since then, but the human factor has remained equally unpredictable."
Studies carried out by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that 93% of accidents are caused by driver error, 80% of them by the driver's inattentiveness within three seconds before the accident.Beating the big companies
How Mobileye outflanked far larger car accessory manufacturers such as Bosch comes down to a unique combination of advanced artificial vision technology and innovative algorithms hatched by Prof. Amnon Shashua
, holder of the Sachs Chair in computer science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"The idea was born the day he gave a lecture to Toyota executives in Japan on artificial vision, a field in which he is an internationally recognized expert," says Litman. "The Japanese told him they were working on accident-warning systems based on two cameras that gave them the necessary depth of field for the complete picture, but they were encountering problems and asked him whether if it was possible to produce accurate results using only one camera."
Shashua co-founded Mobileye in 1999, motivated by his research in computer vision and machine learning, together with the understanding that the automotive market will lean heavily toward sensor-based safety systems in the future.
Peripheral warning system
"Without a camera -- the ultimate sensor -- no driving assistance system could be complete," says Litman. "Our unique angle into the market was that we can perform all the required functionalities with a monocular [single camera] approach. The camera is behind the rear-view mirror -- the driver can't actually see it."
The company developed its first-generation system-on-chip, the EyeQ1, at its R&D center in Jerusalem's Har Hotzvim high-tech industrial park, launching the revolutionary product in 2007. Initially it was marketed to leading vehicle manufacturers BMW, General Motors, Volvo and Nissan.
"Other OEMs such as Hyundai, Ford, Renault and Citroen saw the success rates and now provide Mobileye with their vehicles. Many other manufacturers are interested, but I cannot reveal who due to secrecy agreements," says Litman.
"The development process is a long one. Adapting the system to a particular vehicle takes two to five years, but we can already retrofit 65% of cars on the road."
Mobileye’s forward collision monitor feature at work
Mobileye's standard ADAS functions include lane departure warning (notifies a driver if the vehicle is about to deviate from its lane), vehicle detection for radar vision fusion (based on algorithms that recognize all motorized vehicles from motorcycles to trucks), forward collision warning (alerts the driver of a potential collision risk), headway monitoring (recognizes vehicles in the same and adjacent lanes), pedestrian detection (warns about static and moving pedestrians up to 30 meters away), intelligent headlight control (automatically raises and lowers the high beam so as not to blind oncoming or preceding traffic) and traffic sign recognition to help drivers obey local traffic instructions.
With headquarters in the Netherlands, offices in the United States, Cyprus and Japan, and the Jerusalem R&D center, Mobileye now has more than 300 employees covering the disciplines of algorithms, application software, hardware engineering, chip design and embedded programming.
The company has come a long way since being selected one of the Top 100 Innovators by Red Herring Magazine in December 2005: In October last year, Mobileye won the International Fleet Industry Award from Fleet Europe, which represents all the vehicle fleets in the continent.
"They want to adopt the system to improve their safety record," says Litman. "The US regulators have so far adopted three ADAS technologies, including two of ours. Transportation ministries worldwide support technologies that reduce accident rates."
This year, Coca-Cola will begin to install the systems in its European vehicle fleet. “They noted the drop both in accidents and fuel consumption. Experience has shown that with the system installed, drivers behave more carefully and accelerate and decelerate less."
Even the best driver can benefit from having ADAS aboard, says Litman.
"Why do you need airbags in your car? Because they can save your life in the case of an accident. You may only use it once in your driving career -- but that's enough."