Designed to help drivers avoid front-end collisions and potentially dangerous lane-departure scenarios, the industry’s first crash-avoidance system to rely on a single camera recently debuted the 2012 GMC Terrain. The new safety-enhancing option features an MSRP of $295, but its ability to help protect vehicle occupants is priceless.
Here’s how it works: A high-resolution digital camera that can “recognize” vehicle shapes and lane markers is mounted on the Terrain’s windshield, just ahead of the rearview mirror. The system’s cutting-edge technology then allows the camera to analyze 14 images per second to determine if the Terrain is following too closely to the vehicle ahead of it, is in imminent danger of a frontal collision or has started to drift out of its lane. Easy-to-understand warning icons and chimes kick in if the system detects a problem and, in the case of an imminent frontal collision, the Terrain’s brakes are automatically pre-charged to quickly deliver optimum braking power.
“Digital image sensors are used in just about everything from cameras to mobile phones to computers and this is making them a more-affordable alternative for use in vehicles,” said Raymond Kiefer, General Motors Technical Fellow for crash avoidance systems. “By combining a digital camera with state-of-the-art image-processing algorithms, we’re able to estimate when a crash may be imminent.”
According to GMC Anderson, GM engineers put much effort into ensuring the camera-based collision alert can successfully operate in a wide variety of visibility conditions. For example, the system combines four separate exposures to create each analyzed image, two short exposures for capturing images of light sources and two exposures that are long enough to allow the recognition of shapes and textures, even during night-time driving.
“GM is committed to providing protection before, during and after a crash, but the best scenario is to avoid a collision in the first place, and this technology is designed to assist drivers for that purpose,” said Gay Kent, GM executive director of Vehicle Safety and Crashworthiness.