PARIS – Valeo SA says it has secured an agreement with an unnamed auto maker to supply what is slated to be a world-first production-vehicle application of a lane-departure warning system.

The world-first launch apparently will come for a U.S.-market vehicle. “If the system enters volume production in 2004 in North America as anticipated, it will be a world first,” Valeo says.

Valeo developed the lane-departure warning system – which employs a tiny camera mounted on the windshield near the rearview mirror to “see” the road ahead and monitor the vehicle’s positioning within whatever amounts to a “lane” on the particular road being used – with Iteris Inc., a subsidiary of Odetics Inc., an image-processing and sensors specialist. Valeo has signed a cooperative agreement with Iteris to “exclusively manufacture and market camera-based lane-departure warning systems for light vehicles worldwide.” (See related story: Iteris In Fast Lane With Warning System)

Using proprietary image-processing software, the lane-departure system, says Valeo, continuously monitors lane markings and informs the driver of “unintentional lane departures.” The system then informs the distracted, inattentive or sleepy driver that corrective action is required.

Exact system characteristics will be specified by each OE customer, says Valeo, but prototype systems shown to the press by auto makers have run the gamut from sounding a gentle-but-persistent alarm to actually taking control of the steering to correct the vehicle’s position.

Valeo says Interis already has gleaned considerable production-vehicle experience with lane-departure systems installed in thousands of commercial vehicles in North America and Europe, and the company predicts the market for “automotive systems that monitor the vehicle’s surrounding environment” to reach €800 million ($935 million) by 2010.

Speculation might rest on General Motors Corp. as being the first auto maker to bring Valeo’s lane-departure warning to production. Valeo currently has an active joint venture with Raytheon Corp. to develop radar-based automotive systems – and Raytheon, meanwhile, has close ties with GM, having developed the unique Night Vision system used for GM’s Cadillac and Hummer vehicles.