Automotive parts supplier Continental has developed a stereo camera system designed to dramatically improve the safety of vehicles and their ability to recognise and react to pedestrians and other threats on the road.

The stereo camera consists of two high-resolution mono-cameras, which are positioned 20cm apart behind the windscreen.

Standard mono-cameras can only estimate distances and recognise obstacles that they have been programed to remember. The stereo camera is able to measure the distance to an object and its height, thanks to the differences in perspective between the left and right cameras – in effect giving the system human-like spatial vision.

The stereo camera is accurate to 20cm to 30cm over a range of up to 30 metres, and the twin setup helps in poor conditions like rain, snow and dusk when visibility is low.

Head of Passive Safety & ADAS Business Unit at Continental’s Chassis & Safety Division, Dr Andreas Brand, said the system was designed to be integrated with existing safety features.

“Since the stereo camera also realises the already familiar assistance systems, such as Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition, and Intelligent Headlamp Control, we think that it will set a new trend in the medium to long term and will be available for all vehicle categories, from compact cars to premium vehicles,” Dr Brand said.

If the stereo camera system detects an object and the driver fails to react, it will initiate emergency braking of up to 1.0 g. Since the system has spatial awareness, it will also be able to identify potential routes of evasive action, and steer the vehicle onto a safer path.

The technology is currently limited to larger hazards and cannot detect children, wheelchair users, cyclists or small animals, but Continental says in the future the system will be able to recognise all of these obstacles.