Infineon brings new performance to 3D depth sensors

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The role of 3D depth sensors in vehicles is growing in importance, from enabling innovative HMI solutions to improving passive safety. To address this increasing demand, Infineon Technologies, in collaboration with 3D time-of-flight system specialist pmdtechnologies, has developed a second generation of the ISO 26262-compliant, high-resolution Real3 3D automotive image sensor.

“Leveraging our leadership in 3D sensors for consumer applications, we are now offering high resolution with a tiny image circle to the automotive world. This enables cars with functions from the consumer world, while maintaining automotive standards and even improving passive safety,” said Christian Herzum, VP 3D Sensing at Infineon. “For instance, reliable and secure facial authentication allows seamless connectivity for any type of service that requires authentication such as payment, battery charging or accessing private data.”

In addition, the sensor meets all requirements for driver monitoring to detect driver distraction and fatigue. This enables the offering of a driver monitoring system with secure 3D facial recognition using only one ToF camera.

“From the start we were focused on improving the robustness of the underlying pmd-based ToF technology against external influences such as sunlight or other disturbing light sources. For this reason, the new imager shows excellent and cutting edge performance even under harsh conditions”, added Bernd Buxbaum, CEO pmdtechnologies.

The sensor comes in a 9 x 9mm² plastic BGA package and offers a VGA system resolution of 640 x 480 pixels with a tiny image circle of 4mm. This allows the use of lens sizes similar to those seen in smartphones, but now also for automotive applications. The high resolution of the Real3 sensor also makes it suitable for camera applications with a wide field of view, such as complete front-row occupant monitoring systems.

The resulting 3D body models enable accurate estimates of occupant size and weight, as well as highly precise passenger and seat position data, which is key information for intelligent airbag deployment and restraint systems. In addition to its small size, the single-chip solution is qualified to AEC-Q100 Grade 2 and is the first of its kind being developed according to the ISO 26262 (ASIL-B) standard.

Infineon notes that besides safety critical applications, the 3D data allows for comfort features such as gesture control or intuitive interior lighting that follows passengers’ movements. Additionally, the imager might be used in environmental perception scenarios as a Flash-lidar in the automotive space and – based on the safety conformity – it is also an ideal candidate for adjacent applications in mobile robotics, drones and other autonomous use cases in general where reliability and safety is a must to protect operators.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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