Special Coverage


DETROIT – Elmos Semiconductor AG says it has begun serial production of a motion-detection chip that enables gesture-based occupant commands.

With a wave of a hand, for example, a driver or passenger can turn on interior lights or control the navigation screen.

“It enables gesture recognition, so you can measure by optical means,” Elmos CEO Anton Mindl says in an interview with Ward’s at the Convergence Transportation Electronics Conference here.

Motion-sensing technology is “very interesting and opens up a lot of new fantasies for human machine interface,” he adds.

Elmos already uses the technology for exterior applications, including a lane-departing warning system and windshield wipers. “It can sense when water droplets fall on a vehicle’s windshield and activate the wipers,” says Mindl, who is the former CEO of Siemens VDO.

The Germany-based supplier develops and manufactures application-specific integrated circuits and sensors for automotive, industrial and consumer-electronics customer.

“We have applications and ICs (integrated circuits) in all of the megatrends you can think of,” Mindl says.

Recent products include the first sun-angle sensor, allowing climate-control systems to compensate for time of day, and the first sensor-less system to control brushless motors. The sensor also can regulate automatic window-tinting and control window blinds in offices and homes.

But Mindl says roughly 90% of Elmos’ sales are automotive. As safety features and standards become mandatory worldwide, “it’s driving the need for electronics and integration in the area of safety.”

Elmos has sold more than 150 million ICs for airbag-deployment applications, he says. However, the company’s latest focus has been on its motion-detection chip.

The standard IC for 3-D motion detection can pick up motion through clear protective surfaces, and the single integrated chip contains no mechanical elements. Up to five emitters and one compensator can be controlled by the IC.

And what does Mindl envision for the future of electronics? “It’s a dream that was conceptualized 20 years ago and that’s autonomous driving. It will come true,” he says.

At some point in time, “we’ll have specific roads that are linked with our car into the system. You can take you hands off and go to the next exit, and then take over manually again. This will require tremendous amounts of electronics: Mindl says.

“It’s something we’ll see not tomorrow or in five years, but maybe experimentally in five years,” he says. “It will have to be supported by sensors, by actuators and by electronics.”