Honda Motor Co Ltd will equip its new "Odyssey," scheduled to debut in Japan in October 2008, with a "multi-view camera system," which provides an overhead view of the surrounding area.
The system was developed by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co Ltd, and it provides a 360° view of the area around the vehicle, allowing the driver to check the surrounding area on a single display and to park the car more easily. Honda will be the second automaker to adopt an overhead-view display system, following Nissan Motor Co Ltd (See related article).
The multi-view camera system has four CCD cameras mounted on the central area of the front grill, side view mirrors and the top of the rear side of the vehicle. The images caught by the four cameras are processed by the electronic control unit (ECU) and displayed on the navigation monitor as an image seen from above the vehicle.
Honda employed an exclusive ASIC developed by Matsushita for the ECU for image processing. The ASIC corrects distortions, colors and brightness, converts the viewpoints of the each image, and then synthesizes the four images to display them as a single image on the monitor.
The CCD camera, also manufactured by Matsushita, offers 350,000 pixels. Its view angles are 180° in a horizontal direction and 120° in a vertical direction. The ECU is mounted inside the dashboard.
In this system, a near-infrared LED is mounted only in the side view mirror on the passenger side. When the near-infrared LED is lit, the driver can see the image in the passenger-side side view mirror on the monitor at night or in dark areas such as multi-level parking garages.
It did not use a visible-light LED because of a regulation that prohibits loading of a light other than a direction indicator light on side view mirrors. The near-infrared LED was mounted on the passenger-side side view mirror "responding to the needs of drivers," according to Honda. The area under the vehicle body on the passenger-side is likely to be a blind spot for drivers.
The image is displayed on the monitor even if the side view mirrors are folded
This system provides an overhead view even when the side view mirrors are folded. "We assumed the situation where the driver has to back out of a narrow space, such as in a multi-level parking garage with the side view mirrors folded," Honda said.
To realize this, the system is equipped with two pixel location conversion rules for synthesizing four images. The synthesizing process is carried out by shifting the pixel location of a camera to a predetermined display location on the monitor. Two shifting rules were set, one for open side view mirrors and the other for folded side view mirrors.
The overhead view displayed on the monitor covers the areas 1.5m from the front end of the vehicle, 1.8m each from the sides and 3.0m from the rear end. The display areas on both sides were decided after overall considerations on "the usability as well as the monitor's displayable range," according to Honda. The display area for the rear area is wider, because the company wanted to place more emphasis on the rear view rather than the front view.
Less expensive than Nissan's system
When the systems of Honda and Nissan are compared, the selling point of the Honda's system will be its low price. This is because there is reportedly a big difference in prices between the camera modules adopted by the two companies. Four cameras are used in each of the systems, so the difference in camera prices will be reflected significantly on the cost of the systems.
Nissan uses a special and high performance CMOS camera module manufactured by Sony (See related article 2). It provides images of higher quality, while the price is higher. Meanwhile, Honda uses a 350,000-pixel CCD camera that is normally loaded on vehicles. Though its image quality is comparatively low, the price is lower.
Furthermore, the system developed by Nissan is equipped with four sonars that detect obstacles around the vehicle. On the other hand, Honda's system is not equipped with any sonar. This may be one of the factors contributing to its low cost.