Industry Market Trends

Significant Growth Potential Looms for Image Sensors in Automotive

Mar 19, 2014

The fast trickle-down of advanced driver assistance systems in the consumer car market is yielding demand for image sensors and potential double-digit growth. Vision-based assistance will go up against other types of systems like radar.

Image sensors are used effectively in a range of applications, from photographic to medical. One sector in which image sensors are currently experiencing particularly impressive growth potential is automotive, specifically in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). This disruptive technology in automotive applications that may have great potential impact on the image sensors market.

ADAS uses image sensors to improve a driver's safety on the road by offering features such as automatic parking assistance (APA), lane departure warning (LDW), and collision avoidance systems, all of which can help the car to gather information about the outside world. In order to offer these various features, ADAS embraces a number of technologies, such as sensors, radar, lidar, and integrated cameras, to provide the driver with an all-round picture of surroundings.

The market for ADAS is growing; analysis of the market has revealed possible growth at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 50 percent until 2018. Market value may also rise from the current $18.5 billion to $165 billion in the next five years.

ADAS with vision-based inputs such as cameras offers particularly promising and unique opportunities to the image sensors industry. Camera-based ADAS is not new; this technology has had time to mature over previous years, but it was mostly seen as a customer option on premium-brand cars. Historically, advanced driver assistance systems have only appeared in luxury and high-end vehicles; however, there has since been a significant shift. For example, APA was once an expensive (roughly $3,000) option in the Lexus LS sedan. Now it is a $395 option on some mainstream Ford vehicles.

Different types of sensors are being deployed in various systems today. For the environmental near- and far-field monitoring around the vehicle, radar, lidar, ultrasonic, PMD, camera, and night vision sensors are used. The most advanced systems work by combining the sensor data (data fusion) to achieve accurate results. Camera systems will see an additional boost in the near future, looking inside the car in order to analyze the driver's state. In coming years, driver situation and prediction analysis will be used to better filter the various warning messages an ADAS is able to generate.

There are both consumer and regulatory drivers for increased use of ADAS. While consumers tend to enjoy new gadgets and would like to decrease their risk of accidents, regulators have ambitious targets for improving road safety for both drivers and pedestrians. In 2010, Euro NCAP, the safety certification body, launched a reward program called Euro NCAP Advanced to promote adoption of advanced safety techniques. Recently, Euro NCAP announced only cars with advanced driver assistance systems would be awarded its five-star safety rating.

In the U.S., the key safety goal of the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce the number and severity of commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes. In recent years, the FMCSA has been in collaboration with the truck industry to test, evaluate, and facilitate the use of on-board safety systems for CMVs in order to improve the safety of all road users. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Safecar initiative will drive regulatory adoption of ADAS in domestic vehicles.

These developments have marked a step change in the need for driver assistance in volume production vehicles. This has inevitably led to an increased employment of ADAS, representing a huge commercial opportunity for the image sensors industry. First and foremost, Euro NCAP's tightened safety requirements will boost installed ADAS equipment from single-digit market penetration to almost 100 percent over coming years, so it's no surprise that the call for a commercially viable solution is on.

With the major auto vendors realizing the huge potential in this market, many of them, such as GM, Ford, Toyota, and Audi, are making significant investments to improve their understanding and implementation of ADAS in vehicles during production. In addition, a number of independent technology enterprises have entered the market to provide ADAS solutions to vehicles, driving up sales of this type of technology in the car aftermarket -- also a booming market. Some of the major enterprises that are providing ADAS include Valeo, Continental, Aisin Group, Audiovox Corp., Ficosa International S.A., Hella KGaA, and Hueck & Co.

Geographical analysis of the ADAS market shows that while the U.S. and western Europe are still the major markets, a number of Asian passenger car producers, such as Nissan, Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai/Kia, are also beginning to offer ADAS in their cars. In the near future, countries such as China, South Korea, and Japan are expected to make driver assistance systems mandatory; therefore, the Asia-Pacific market is anticipated to grow by a promising rate in the next five years.


Rob Stead is EU head of events for Smithers Apex, which provides events, market research, publications, strategic and technical consulting to niche, emerging, and high-growth industries. Markets covered include lighting and displays, clean energy, home and personal care, industrial biotechnology, performance materials, and chemicals. Its "Ten Year Forecast of Disruptive Technologies in Image Sensors to 2022" provides a comprehensive overview of developments. For more information, visit