Car Sense

Market analyst firm Techno Systems Research (, of Japan, projects that application volumes for CMOS image sensors will surpass those for CCD sensors next year and, by 2008, 20 million CMOS sensors will be in use in the automotive market. With this progress report in mind, OmniVision Technologies, Inc. (, supplier of CMOS image sensors, has launched its first image sensor designed specifically for the automotive market. The OV7940 is a color analog CMOS image sensor based on the company's OmniPixel technology. Its single-chip design enables a module cost of under $30 for numerous automotive driver-assistance applications. The OV7940 is also suitable for nonautomotive applications such as mainstream CCTV and security systems currently dominated by CCDs.

Melexis Microelectronic Integrated Systems N.V. (, which designs, develops, tests, and markets advanced integrated semiconductor devices and Open License Society (OLS,, a private R&D institute founded by Eric Verhulst, are collaborating on a new business focused on systems and software engineering services for automotive customers. After analyzing the high failure rate of industrial projects, OLS put forth a new unifying systems engineering methodology in which a single model is developed on the concept of "Communicating Objects." Central in the approach is a shift toward up-front modeling and analysis, which promises to eliminate errors in the system design and reduce residual errors. OLS is pioneering this approach with support of the Flemish government and is setting up European consortia to develop a complete tool chain.

Melexis, which has been supplying components to the auto industry for 10 years, says that the operating conditions of an automobile today are comparable to those found in the aerospace sector, but because cars are used in less-controllable maintenance conditions, they must be inherently more reliable. This demands the highest quality standards for developing the car as a system and a particular focus on embedded software. This can be achieved only by adopting rigorous development methods coupled with higher levels of productivity.

According to Verhulst, the arrangement provides a perfect development environment for OLS's methodology, coupling experience-guided insight with real-world applications in a demanding environment. Melexis becomes the main sponsor of OLS, allowing it to pursue its R&D road map independently but gaining early access to the results.

Meanwhile, a company that's made a huge impact in the automotive industry with MEMS accelerometers for airbag deployment has reached a milestone. Analog Devices Inc. (ADI,, provider of semiconductors for signal processing applications, has shipped its 200 millionth MEMS-based inertial sensor. The company says it achieved this milestone through wide market acceptance of its iMEMS technology and by continuing to invest in MEMS research and development. ADI's MEMS product portfolio includes low-g and high-g accelerometers and gyroscopes.

"ADI pioneered and evangelized the field of microelectromechanical systems. Following the shipment of our first iMEMS accelerometer in 1993, it took nearly 10 years to grow the market to 100 million units," says Bill Giudice, vice president and general manager of the Micromachined Products Division. "Today, the investment has paid off and Analog Devices' iMEMS motion signal processing is a proven technology and the most widely used MEMS inertial sensing technology in the world. The second 100 million were shipped in just two and half years as our business moves rapidly beyond airbag systems." iMEMS technology is now finding acceptance in consumer-products design.

PerkinElmer Optoelectronics (, which sells more than 150 million sensors a year, says its launch of a new laser component for automotive applications, called EPI-cavity, is part of a larger home and automotive "Opto-inside" PerkinElmer story. The single-chip EPI-Cavity Pulse Laser provides high power output with a small source size in a compact package, making it easy and cost-effective for OEMs to integrate into a variety of consumer and industrial range-finding applications, such as blind-spot detectors, traffic-flow monitors, traffic-speed guns, adaptive cruise-control systems, and ceilometers. The company says that today's digital homes and cars contain more than two dozen PerkinElmer Optoelectronics miniaturized sensors each.