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Smart Cars_DOT

Smart Cars Drive Need for Technical Advances

Materion Optical Sensors Behind the Wheel

While automobiles have employed optical sensors for over 30 years, today’s contemporary “smart cars” demand more technologically advanced and rugged optical sensors than ever before.  Behind this is the industry push toward superior safety systems and autonomous driving capabilities. Materion Precision Optics is a world leader in the cutting-edge technology required to produce these sophisticated optical sensors.

(Image courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation)

Current Vehicle Sensor Technology

Present day automobiles make use of hundreds of optical sensors to provide performance data for a broad range of functions. There are unique sensors that assist in the synchronization of steering wheel movements with headlights; sensors that monitor the level of rainfall and determine appropriate wiper speed; even sensors that monitor the amount of sunlight and dictate when headlamps light.

All of these vehicle subsystems rely heavily on optical sensors to ensure peak performance. Whether it’s for safety, fuel consumption, power train & chassis, stability, interior cabin or driver experience - optical sensors play a key role in the functions of the modern automobile.

Automobiles Full of Optical Sensors

Optical sensors are everywhere in today’s modern vehicles. A broad array of safety systems depend on image sensing cameras and robust optical sensors for consistent performance. Among them are:  lane departure, collision avoidance, driver awareness, passenger location, brake assist, side & rear view monitoring, pedestrian recognition, sign and signal & detection systems. 

In addition, optical sensors support the automobile’s power train and chassis and contribute to reliable operation. They monitor power steering, engine knock, combustion quality, engine cylinder temperature, clutch plate wear and suspension, just to name a few. The internal cabin also relies heavily on optical sensors to provide an enhanced driver experience.  Such features as IR touch pads, automatic seat adjusters, driver awareness monitors or passenger locators are all dependent on optical sensors.

Looking to the Future!Smart Car_DOT Graphic

As technology advances, the automobiles of tomorrow will have an increased need for versatile and dynamic optical sensors to enable their systems.  Materion’s cutting-edge optical filter manufacturing technology allows us to produce precision optics for a wide range of applications. With our technical expertise and access to broad resources, we are uniquely positioned to offer solutions to our customer's most demanding challenges.

The day is almost here when human drivers will share the highway with autonomously driven vehicles. These “driver-less” automobiles will employ  up to 20 cameras as part of a multi-sensor fusion system that will permit a full 360° monitoring of both the inside and outside of the vehicle.  LIDAR systems will almost certainly play a key role in this. At Materion, we offer a variety of filters and elements that contribute to the functionality of LIDAR systems including ultra narrow bandpass filters, beam splitters and mirrors.  Anticipating the need for increasingly innovative optical sensors, Materion is actively pioneering sensor technology that will empower the cars of the future. (Image courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Transportation)

For More Information

To learn more about Materion Precision Optics optical filter and sensor capabilities, please contact David Harrison, Business Development Manager, Image & Sensing,