Some say that the essence of a car is to go well, stand well, and turn well. But it only describes one part of the car - movement. The safety of occupants is as important as performance in a car. Occupants in small spaces are easily exposed to danger in the event of an accident. In the history of more than 100 years of automobiles, occupant safety has long depended on rigid bodies, seat belts, and airbags. However, the latest cutting-edge technology, which is being introduced rapidly, has remarkably improved the safety of automobiles.
First of all, optical technology is contributing greatly to enhancing vehicle safety as well as convenience. Many people often think that optical technology means only lights such as headlamps and rear lamps. However, among optics-related technologies, the camera is showing the greatest potential for development in recent automobiles. Until recently, cameras were only used to record video or show the back of a car for parking, but with technological advances, cameras have begun to perform more diverse functions.
On an extremely dark night, even a car full of advanced equipment has no choice but to rely on the light from the headlamps. Even if it is not for night driving, headlamps are essential for automobiles, so they have been constantly evolving throughout automobile history. In particular, since the introduction of LED light sources, headlamps have taken a step forward in terms of design and utility.
LEDs with excellent visibility, quick response, and high energy efficiency quickly took the place of halogens and HIDs. LEDs are compact as well as great light sources, giving automakers the freedom to design and configure their models. In addition, LEDs control each unit by interlocking with electronic equipment such as sensors and cameras. The safety function of a car that utilizes these characteristics of LED is the Intelligent Front-lighting System (IFS) created by Hyundai Motor Group.
Drivers on quiet roads without streetlights at night sometimes use high beams to secure more visibility. However, this causes glare to oncoming vehicles and the ones going ahead. Hyundai Motor Group’s IFS prevents this situation. The IFS housed in the Genesis G80, G90, and GV80 recognizes surrounding vehicles through information from the front camera and partially turns off the LEDs of the headlamps according to each situation. This technology maintains high beams except where other vehicles are present, providing constant visibility; This is an improved version of High-Beam Assist, which turns off the high beams when it recognizes another car.
IFS, which utilizes camera information, has the potential to have better performance as light source technology develops. For example, the Genesis G90, released in 2021, is equipped with MLA (Micro Lens Array, a lens for microscopes and telescopes) technology, which was implemented for the first time by the Hyundai Motor Group. Selective lighting using camera information has also become more detailed thanks to the smaller size while securing excellent visibility.
It is one of Safe Driving 101 to look behind/to the side before changing lanes. The side mirrors for this are on all cars. These have evolved digitally since advances in camera technology and electrification began to trend: such as the Digital Side Mirror (DSM) unveiled through Hyundai IONIQ 5, the automaker’s first dedicated EV.
DSM uses high-definition cameras and OLED monitors to replace side mirrors. The current side mirror has a flaw that it is difficult to secure rear view at night or in bad weather. DSMs using cameras are relatively free from these problems. The high-resolution camera secures a clear view even at night, and the indoor OLED monitor is not interrupted by rain or snow. It also reduces the risk of accidents by reducing blind spots with a viewing angle that is 11° wider than that of the current side mirrors.
DSM shines while parking as well. For example, while a vehicle equipped with DSM is reversing, the ‘enlarged reverse parking screen’ function is activated. This feature provides more detailed information than the usual DSM monitor. DSM also displays parking assistance lines in red (0.5m from the car) and orange (1m from the car). DSM’s Parking Assistance Line, which visually indicates the space, helps to park safely and easily even in narrow spaces. Indeed, digital features significantly improve safety and convenience.
In addition, cameras mounted on the front, rear and sides of the vehicle provide users with a unique visual experience: like the Surround View Monitor (SVM), which is provided as an option for Hyundai Motor Group vehicles. SVM combines the images taken by the front, rear, and side cameras to provide a view as if looking down on the vehicle from above. In addition, some models equipped with the Hyundai Motor Group’s SVM function show a 360° view of the car implemented in 3D from a slightly higher point than the vehicle, as well as ‘bird’s eye view’ (a bird’s view looking down from the sky). It is useful not only while parking, but also when exiting narrow spaces.
As electric vehicles become commonplace, DSM will increase its design value in addition to functional aspects. This is because electric vehicles must have an aerodynamic design to secure a mileage. The current side mirrors cause air resistance because they have to secure a certain size. On the other hand, DSM can perfect the aerodynamic design by placing a display in the cabin and installing a mini-sized camera outside. For reference, the IONIQ 5’s DSM improves air resistance by about 2.8% compared to conventional side mirrors.
Automobiles must keep occupants safe from accidents. To this end, automakers strengthen the body in various ways or introduce occupant protection devices such as seat belts and airbags. However, since these all protect occupants after an accident occurs, manufacturers have been aware of the need for preventative devices such as various anti-collision assist functions of the Hyundai Motor Group Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS).
Various anti-collision assist functions of ADAS operate through various sensors installed in the vehicle. In general, radar and ultrasonic sensors are used for collision avoidance assistance, and recently, cameras have become increasingly important. Cameras that compensate for the flaws of conventional sensors have dramatically improved the most important function, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA).
When FCA predicts a collision with the vehicle in front, it sends a warning to the driver and avoids it by braking or steering the vehicle itself. The latest FCA has further expanded its detection range: vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, oncoming vehicles at intersections, crossing vehicles, etc.
Another technology that utilizes the front camera is electronically controlled suspension (ECS) with road preview. It recognizes road surface information in advance through the front camera and adjusts the damping force of the suspension. Its high-performance Electronic Control Unit (ECU) performs calculations up to 100 times per second, and based on these results, adjusts the damping force of the ECS at 1/1,000th of a second intervals. Through this sensing ability and processing, it minimizes shock or vibration and provides optimal ride comfort.
Some of Hyundai Motor Group’s latest models, such as the Genesis G90, use cameras for Side/Reverse Parking Collision-Avoidance Assist to more actively prevent collisions while parking. Cameras, which were used only to show the rear or surroundings, are now helping to avoid collisions by detecting obstacles in front, behind and to the side and alerting the driver or intervening directly in control. Cameras on models with this feature include a wide-angle camera mounted on the front grille, side mirrors, and trunk lid. The development of cameras with such a wide range and clear recognition ability helps drivers drive safely by perfectly identifying the blind spots of the car.
The digitalization of automobiles made analog elements in the cabin disappear one by one. The buttons on the center fascia are being replaced with touch displays. The instrument panel, which indicated the engine’s vitality with its sharp needles, is also being replaced with a digital screen. The digital instrument panel delivers more information, but some people are disappointed with the flat screen that lacks depth.
Hyundai Motor Group introduced the world’s first 12.3-inch 3D cluster that added a three-dimensional effect to this digital instrument panel through its Genesis G70. The biggest feature of Hyundai Motor Group’s 3D cluster is that it incorporates ‘Stereoscopic 3D’ technology, which allows the camera to recognize the driver’s eyes and deliver information in three dimensions. Stereoscopic delivers a pair of 2D images to both eyes of the driver, respectively, so that they can feel the three-dimensional effect. The most notable thing is that the two screens with a slight difference in angle are merged in the brain to create a sense of depth. In future automobiles, the instrument panel may become less important than it is today. However, technologies such as 3D clusters will provide important clues for the future of automotive optics technologies.
Things that we could only imagine - EVs, connected cars, self-driving technology, and so one - are now with us. These changes are thanks to the ever-evolving, state-of-the-art electronic equipment. Optical technology is one of the cutting-edge technologies that promote this development, and is currently being researched in various fields and demonstrating endless possibilities besides vehicle safety. Autonomous driving level 3, which will be commercialized soon, will also utilize Lidar, one of the optical technologies. In order to find out how optical technology will change our mobility life in the future, many are paying attention to its evolution.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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