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Progress in sensors present a ‘huge opportunity’ to advance automotive market, says Osram Opto Semiconductors

More reliable sensor technology will increase the speed to market for semi-autonomous vehicles, and provide a more comfortable and safe journey for drivers, says Osram Opto Semiconductors

Today’s automotive market is a showcase of some of the most important next-generation technologies, as vehicle manufacturers are among the first to adopt the latest technology developments, including the use of visible and invisible light for state of the art sensor technology, to create the ultimate driving and passenger experience.

Therefore, the work from leading companies like Osram Opto Semiconductors plays an important role to realise real-life applications for sensors in safety, security and comfort. 

When it comes to opto electronics technologies in today’s automotives and future vehicles, a lot of the attention has been on LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) laser technology.

However, it is in fact developments in many fields based on the use of photodetectors and IREDs (Infrared Emitting Diode) – in particular, as basis for sensors – that are making headway in bringing a multitude of advancements closer to market.


The wide range of applications for sensors in car interior and exterior include everything from reducing the risk to the lives of drivers, passengers and pedestrians, to delivering the ultimate vehicle driving experience in luxurious comfort.

Camera-based sensor systems making use of infrared light technology are making headway in interior systems. Driver monitoring is an increasingly critical component for today’s safety features as well as for future semi-autonomous cars.

IREDs are used to illuminate a driver’s face with invisible infrared (IR) light. To detect whether the driver is fatigued or distracted, a CMOS camera monitors the face, especially the eyes, to detect the status of attention and the gaze direction of the driver.

A warning is activated in case of drowsiness to alert the driver, or recommend taking a break. In semi-autonomous cars (level 3 and higher) the vehicle must be able to hand back the control to the driver in case of a critical situation at any time, which makes driver monitoring systems mandatory.

Another example for a safety feature is realized via occupancy detection systems, using invisible IR light and a CMOS camera, which monitors the passenger seats.

Occupants are recognized and their size and position are determined to ensure appropriate deployment of the airbag in case of an accident, which can save lives.

It is however not only inside the car where light technologies are improving visibility, vehicle and traffic safety, an overall smoother journey and iconic styling recognition.

Cameras used on cars to detect the environment around the vehicle for night vision assistance, are benefiting from increasing efficiency of the latest high power IR-LEDs.

This gives for example headlamp designers far more flexibility and freedom. High power infrared LEDs are also enhancing road camera systems, such as those used to read number plates.

Improvements used to sense the plates mean computers can read them more easily, reducing the risk of error and opening the doorway to additional technologies such as automatic toll booths, ensuring the smooth flow of traffic.

Other applications include adaptive cruise control, pre-crash sensing, pedestrian protection and blind spot detection.

Walter Rothmund, marketing manager at Osram Opto Semiconductors said: “The spectrum of possibilities for sensors in advancing the automobile market is virtually infinite.

“The next generation of vehicles is almost a showcase for the technologies that are set to change all aspects of our lives.

“We have seen a huge leap in developments in sensor technology based on photodetectors and IR-LEDs, spurred on by new possibilities to make driving safer and more comfortable.

“Perfecting the sensors required for such technology is crucial for the safety of all road users and pedestrians.”

Osram Opto Semiconductors offers a broad and highly diversified portfolio of LED and infrared components for virtually all exterior and interior automotive applications.

This article was contributed by Osram Opto Semiconductors