Today, Samsung unveiled the ISOCELL Auto 4AC, the first image sensor tailored for cars. It is intended to be used as a reverse camera or (on more advanced systems) to operate surround view screens.
This is not about image quality and certainly not resolution – instead, the focus is on practical things like a high dynamic range (120 dB) and LED flicker reduction. Both are based on what Samsung calls the CornerPixel.
This technology combines two photodiodes per Pixel – a 3.0 µm for operation with low light and a 1.0 µm one located in the corner (hence the name) to be used in bright environments.
This setup allows the sensor to quickly adapt to changes in ambient light, e.g. When leaving a tunnel. It also provides a high dynamic range with slightly blurred motion and reduces the flicker of LED lights. If you are wondering why this is important, consider that many modern headlights on cars as well as street lighting have switched to LEDs. In any case, the flicker reduction is achieved by extending the exposure time of the small photodiodes.
ISOCELL Auto 4AC is a 1 / 3.7 ”sensor with 1.3 MP resolution (1,280 x 960). There is an ISP integrated in the sensor. The sensor meets the AEC-Q100 Class 2 requirements, which include operation in a very wide temperature window of -40 ° C to 125 ° C (that is -40 ° F to 257 ° F). In fact, it seems that it covers stricter class 1 if we read this PDF correct.
4AC is already in mass production. Note that it is not intended for applications with autonomous driving or use in the cab (eg driver monitoring), Samsung plans to introduce more sensors to cover such use cases.
Why does any of this matter? Well, Korea Economic Daily reports that Samsugn Electro-Mechanics has signed a $ 436 million deal with the “best US EV manufacturer”. It’s not hard to guess that it means Tesla.
As the 4AC is Samsung’s first image sensor for car applications, the timing of the announcements is not random. This move will put extra pressure on the current market leader in this segment, Sony.
There is more. While WHEN the report does not mention names, there are rumors swirling in the industry that the Tesla / Samsung agreement is to supply cameras to Cybertruck. When you get past its geometric design, you will notice that it lacks side mirrors. Instead, the camera is embedded in the screens and one under the front bumper. There are probably more cameras scattered around the truck, but Tesla is keeping the details secret for now.
The unique-looking truck was announced in 2019, and Tesla is trying to bring it to market later in the year, though it could be delayed until 2022.