Automotive 1.35Mpixel CMOS Image Sensor for Driver Assistance & Driverless Cars

Melexis-PR36_LRESMelexis introduces its 3rd generation of automotive image sensors – the MLX75421 Blackbird. This automotive grade, high dynamic range (HDR) image sensor features an extensive set of on-chip functional safety (ASIL) support functions. It has been architected for automotive safety applications like automatic emergency braking (AEB), electronic mirrors/camera monitor systems (CMS) and autonomous evasive steering. The device is also highly optimized for next generation viewing applications like surround/rear view systems with object detection functions.

The MLX75421 Blackbird’s set of ASIL support functions are explicitly aimed at a cost-effective implementation of ASIL systems. These functions take care of the digital aspects but moreover also cover the sensor’s analog functions and the sensor interface. As a result, the sensor generates an embedded ‘frame valid’ flag for every frame based on intensive run-time self-testing.

With a resolution of 1344×1008 pixels, the MLX75421 Blackbird has a 1/3” optical format. It features a 4 stabilized kneepoint HDR response curve which provides up to 125dB of HDR inside every frame. The HDR full frame rate is 45fps, while 60fps can be achieved when capturing image data from 800 rows. This makes the image sensor also compatible with 720p applications. The device runs fully automatically in HDR mode without the need for a companion chip.

Designed for low noise operation, the MLX75421 Blackbird has a dark leakage of less than 5 electrons/s at 25°C and dark temporal noise of less than 4.4 electrons for a 1/30s exposure time. This results in an SNR1 illuminance value of 0.005 lux for light with a wavelength of 535nm over a 1/30s exposure time. The device has a wide operating temperature range of -40°C to +115°C, which benefits its temperature robustness.

“Cost-effective support for ASIL systems was a key design specification from the start. For Blackbird’s functional safety design, we drew the company’s internally available functional safety expertise as Melexis already manufactures other ASIL ready sensors. This resulted in an impressively smart functional safety design and gives us a head start in targeting safety systems like AEB and other autonomous functions for driverless cars,” states Cliff De Locht, Product Marketing Manager at Melexis.

“For almost every automotive camera function, car manufacturers and their technology partners are telling us that they need markedly improved low-light performance on what is currently available from image sensor suppliers. Drivers who have earlier generation camera systems in their cars generally want to see more at night. Also upcoming New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) 5-star car ratings are expected to include night conditions for pedestrian and bicycle detection. That’s why we made camera sensitivity and low noise design paramount when developing the Blackbird series. The result is best in class low-light and HDR behavior,” De Locht concludes.

The MLX75421 Blackbird image sensor series consists of 4 versions: monochrome, RCCC, color RGBG and color RGBC. Production is planned to start early 2015.