Priorities shift at Hella
Hella has put three applications on the back burner – Park Assist, Top View, and Driver Alertness – due to the economy and the company’s decision to focus its resources elsewhere, according to Mark Brainard, vice president of product development for Hella Electronics Corporation, the U.S. arm of Hella KGaA Hueck & Company. “We’re very active in camera technology, but the more sophisticated and more costly systems are being tabled for now,” he says.
Hella is launching the park assist system in Europe but otherwise not actively marketing it, according to Brainard. The system uses ultrasonic technology, which Brainard says costs less than a camera-based system. “Park Assist is popular in Europe and Asia, but not as much in the U.S.,” he says, “probably from lack of awareness and cost.”
The Top View system combines images from four cameras to create a composite image that provide birds-eye visibility all around the vehicle, eliminating blind spots. The driver alertness system monitors a driver’s head and eye position and the frequency at which the driver blinks their eyes. It issues a haptic or audible alarm when it detects behavior inconsistent with the driving situation.
Brainard says Hella is actively marketing Traffic Sign Recognition and Lane Departure Warning systems. A camera-based system on the Opel Insignia in Europe, called Opel Eye, combines both applications. Mounted at the base of the rearview mirror, the high-resolution camera reads speed-limit signs, no passing signs, and other traffic restriction markers. It displays a symbol on the vehicle’s dashboard and saves recent sign images for recall.
“In the U.S., active safety is more tied to legislation; that will be the hockey stick for the North American market. Forward Collision Alert is going through FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) and a major OEM is working on it. Rear-view camera technology will be driven by the (Cameron Gulbransen) Kids and Cars Safety Act.” Chrysler offers Hella Rear View Camera systems for which take rates approach 70%.
Brainard adds that Hella’s Lane Change Assist system is one of the only such systems that are globally homologated; able to work in North America, Europe, and Asia. Like other safety technologies, the feature is more popular in Europe and Asia than it is in North America. “We’re working on technology that will enable us to offer a single (hardware) package that can be differentiated in software for different applications, such as Lane Change Assist or Blind Spot Detection.”
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