For driver monitoring, the infrared sensors illuminate the driver precisely so that a camera can capture the driver's status (drowsiness, distracted) and pass the information to the computing system. (Osram)

New Osram IREDs enhance vehicle vision without harming human eyes

As a compliment to cameras, LiDAR and radar, a new family of Infrared LEDs (IREDs) can expand the vision of SAE Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles without harming human eyes, claims maker Osram Opto Semiconductors.

Infrared night vision cameras, LiDAR, radar, and vehicle headlights will provide autonomous vehicles with an ability to see the surroundings at night, but the technologies have limitations.

“Visible camera sensors only work during the day when there is sunlight. Cameras don’t work as well at night and depend on streetlights or other light sources. And radar does not have the resolution necessary to be a complete solution,” Rajeev Thakur, Regional Marketing Manager for Osram Opto Semiconductors, said in an Automotive Engineering interview.

The goal is to achieve a two-point sensing verification where the camera sees an object as well as LIDAR, allowing the vehicle to act appropriately to the data, explained Thakur. Osram’s new infrared LEDs add sensing depth to SAE Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicle’s cameras, LiDAR and radar. “We’re one step closer to making two-point sensing verification a reality,” he said.

Osram’s Oslon Black LEDs deliver 1 watt at 1 amp, which is unmatched in terms of automotive qualified parts, claims Thakur. He noted that all six of the new IREDs have the same footprint: three lenses and two wavelengths.

With an optical output up to 2.0 W in continuous operation, the Oslon Black IREDs deliver various wavelengths and beam angles. A high refractive index silicone is used on each lens, meaning very little light is lost from the sides. The IREDs also can handle virtually any application without needing secondary optics.

Oslon Black 850 nm versions are intended for exterior applications, such as night vision enhancement, lane detection, and pedestrian protection. “To ensure eye safety while providing high illumination intensity, it is necessary to pulse the IRED. The Oslon Black sensors have pulsing capability,” noted Thakur.

The 940nm versions emit less red glow, making the sensors well-suited for in-vehicle applications, such as driver monitoring and gesture recognition.

A drawback with today’s in-vehicle monitoring is blurry camera images. One way to counteract that blurriness is to increase the number of photons. “But if you do this at 940 nm, you have an eye safety issue,” he said, “But by pulsing the [IRED’s] photons, the light is safe for human eyes, and the amount of red glow is reduced.” Continue reading »