Use your smartphone as a dashboard camera

By Aisha on November 13, 2014

Hyundai Mobis buys from compatriot phone and car camera makers Mcnex, LG Innotek Co Ltd, and Sekonix Co Ltd. It installs them into systems designed to aid parking, for instance, which it then sells to sister carmakers Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp. Hyundai’s top-end car Genesis sports five cameras, including cameras that sense whether the vehicle is veering out of lane.
LG Innotek, better known for the cameras in Apple Inc’s iPhone, started making vehicle cameras last year and is in talks to supply luxury carmaker BMW, said a person familiar with the matter.
LG Innotek declined to comment. A BMW Korea spokeswoman said LG Innotek is among companies it is in talks with.
Sekonix, which sells lenses to leading phone maker Samsung, already supplies Hyundai Motor and General Motors Co through Hyundai Mobis and Delphi Automotive PLC, respectively.
This quarter it will see its lenses in cars from Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE) and subsidiary Audi through parts maker Gentex Corp, said a Sekonix official who was not authorised to speak to media and so declined to be identified.
Sekonix declined to comment. Audi said Gentex was a customer of Sekonix but could not confirm parts from Gentex featured Sekonix products. Gentex did not respond to an emailed request for comment and representatives at Volkswagen were not available.
The market for vehicle cameras, largely limited to high-end models, is already crowded – particularly for suppliers of the complete cameras comprising lens, image sensor and circuitry.
Panasonic Corp and Sony Corp lead in parking cameras, according to IHS, and Continental AG, Robert Bosch GmbH [ROBG.UL] and Autoliv Inc dominate front cameras.
“It is very difficult to enter the automotive camera market from supplying mobile phone cameras, especially the complicated front camera market,” IHS senior analyst Helena Perslow said by email.
Continental and Robert Bosch also install software for their front cameras to trigger brakes when ‘seeing’ an obstacle, for instance, adding a layer of complexity.
Further back in the supply chain, smart phone lens makers Haesung Optics Co Ltd and Kolen Co Ltd are also on the verge of branching out.
Haesung has started looking for its first customer for parking camera lenses, said an official who was not authorised to talk to the media.
Kolen, however, is not yet marketing lenses it developed for cars because there is so much competition that Kolen’s entry could trigger a price war, said an official who also declined to be identified.