Striving for safer vehicles

The aim of the AWARE project initiated by Sagem (Safran), Valeo and Ulis is to develop a safe driving system for automobiles, armored vehicles, robots, drones and also airplanes during taxi operations.

The AWARE (All Weather All Roads Enhanced Vision) project is gathering momentum, as its main contractors, Sagem (Safran), Valeo and Ulis1, were selected by the Fonds Unique Interministériel (FUI), an inter-ministerial single fund which is used to finance collaborative signed in 2013 by the automotive supplier and Safran, aims to develop a low-cost camera that will allow the safe driving of various civil and military vehicles. The camera will also be able to detect unexpected obstacles, such as pedestrians, animals and obstructions, during the daytime and nighttime, and in bad weather. "Infrared cameras suited to this use are already available on the automobile market, but their high cost means they are often earmarked for the luxury models," says Thierry Dupoux, R&T Director within the Optronics and Defense Division at Sagem (Safran). "One of the main aims of the AWARE project is to develop a system that is just as capable but costs a lot less. This will make it possible to ensure widespread use on all range of vehicles." Development will focus on the three main components of the camera: the infrared detector, its electronics and its optics.

Pooling expertise

The project will be facilitated by the three main project partners that are pooling their R&D expertise. As a leader in optronics and specialist in high and very high performance components, Sagem is involved in the overall design of the detector and its definition. In its capacity as a global automotive supplier, Valeo is lending its expertise in mass production and low-cost components. It will also conduct tests in an automotive environment. Lastly, Ulis is providing its partners with its technological expertise in infrared detectors.

Civil and military applications

Adapted for dual-use applications, the detector is intended for use on both the civil and military markets. With regards to defense applications, the cost of the detector will make for a more competitive product, reinvigorate the binoculars and sights market, and pave the way for new applications such as automating land vehicles. As Thierry Dupoux points out: "With regards to aerospace, such detectors would help to automate taxiing for commercial jets and make it safer. It would also form a key component of giving drones the capability of perceiving their surroundings in all types of conditions, thereby facilitating their integration into air traffic. With regards to civil applications, the competitiveness of the detectors will make it possible to ensure the widespread use of existing environmental applications for carrying out thermal assessments on buildings, for instance, and offering new application opportunities such as home automation."

1. Ulis is a subsidiary of Sofradir (a 50/50 joint venture by Thales and Safran) and GE Equity, specialized in designing and manufacturing high-volume infrared detectors for commercial and military thermal imaging applications.

  • 43% of fatal injuries at night and twilight (source: ONISR 2012)
  • 17% of fatal injuries are weather related (source: US analytics on road fatalities from 1995 to 2008)