SA predicts that its radar-based blindspot detection system will be in use on 1 million vehicles worldwide within a decade. The French supplier says the system, dubbed Radar Traffic Environment Sensing, should debut on a production vehicle in 2005, likely first in the U.S.
Although the OEM decides retail price,officials estimate the technology could be available to consumers for $600 or $700, installed as original equipment.
The technology springs from the Valeo Raytheon Systems joint venture announced late last year. Raytheon, the defense electronics giant, is an expert in radar technology and paired with Valeo in an attempt to win more automotive business.
The blindspot detection system consists of a single radar sensor placed on each side of the vehicle behind the plastic fascia between the rear wheel and bumper. Each sensor sends seven beams radiating outward like the spokes of a wheel. The radar beams can detect anything within 196 ft. (60 m), but the system only informs the driver if an object appears within 16 ft. (5 m) to the rear of the sensor and within 11 ft. (3.5 m) to the side.
The system is smart enough to discern a moving motorcycle from a fixed object, such as a fire hydrant, and the system will not report the passing of oncoming traffic, for instance on a 2-lane road.
Valeo says it can tailor the system to meet whatever measurements an OEM specifies. For instance, European auto makers may want a larger sensing field to the rear because of the high speeds traveled on the German autobahn.
During a recent test drive, Valeo had the technology installed on aHighlander cross/utility vehicle and a Cadillac CTS sedan. Whenever a vehicle was trailing to the right or left and was detected within that so-called blindspot, an illuminated icon would appear on the side-view mirror to warn the driver. The system was effective, without being annoying.
Valeo says it can customize the system to notify the driver in other ways, perhaps by sound or a signal on the instrument panel.
Martin Haub, Valeo's group vice president-research and development and product marketing, predicts blindspot detection will follow the same growth curve as its successful Ultrasonic Park Assist sensing system, which is found on the rear bumper of minivans, SUVs and luxury cars to aid in backing up. Valeo is the No.1 supplier of the technology, having produced about 15 million Park Assist units over the past several years.
Drivers are concerned about blindspots, and that anxiety extends now to parking lots. When slotted in between two big SUVs, motorists often back out of parking spots blind, causing fender benders. Valeo's blindspot detection system could be programmed to detect the presence of other moving vehicles while backing up.
Valeo is in advanced discussions with several OEMs potentially interested in the technology. But Haub says adoption may come more slowly in Europe because of stricter regulations in the region pertaining to the transmission of radar.
The supplier also says it will supply light-emitting diode taillamps for the '04 Cadillac SRX CUV. The LEDs consume only 15% of the power normally required for conventional incandescent lamps and free up packaging space. The drawback: LEDs cost twice as much as incandescent bulbs.
Valeo Sylvania also will supply light-bending, high-intensity discharge headlamps for eight vehicles in the near future, including the '03 Porsche Cayenne CUV.