Special Coverage


DETROIT – For aging motorists struggling to see traffic signs, German supplier Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. may have a valuable new technology.

The lighting and electronics supplier will provide a camera system that reads traffic signs and warns of unintended lane departures to General Motors Corp.'s '09 Opel Insignia for the European market.

The optional camera, to be marketed under the “Opel Eye” brand name, serves as a driver-assistance system that mounts at the base of the rearview mirror.

Hella is displaying the system for the first time in the U.S. at the 2008 Convergence Transportation Electronics Conference here.

The system reads speed-limit signs, no-passing signs and other traffic markers and displays a symbol on the dashboard.

About the size of a cell phone, the camera takes 30 photos per second, and the images are filtered by two signal processors and special software.

Signs are detected and read several times from a distance of about a football field. If a photo taken corresponds with a stored traffic sign, a warning signal lights up on the instrument panel.

The system also detects if there are special traffic conditions, such as reduced speed limits.

The Opel Eye is paired with Hella's lane-departure warning system. Designed to prevent accidents, the system sounds an alarm if lane markers are crossed.