Turbulence Foreseen in Automotive Camera Market, Says IMS Research

The market for cameras in vehicles is still emerging. Their supply is changing rapidly as automotive system suppliers, camera suppliers and image sensor makers strive for a slice of one of the few growth areas in the automotive industry.

The supplier landscape has become more complex over the last two years. Increasingly, the major system suppliers are developing their own camera modules. At the same time, new and highly specialized suppliers are coming to market, delivering the whole application package. All in all, there are some 20 to 25 suppliers active in this area, with camera modules or vision systems either in development or production. Despite this, only a handful of them currently have contracts and are in production.

According to a recently published report by IMS Research, “The World Market for Automotive Camera Modules,” the top three camera module suppliers together accounted for nearly 80 percent of the 2008 market. These suppliers are by no means in a comfortable position, as they face fierce competition from hungry suppliers with new technology, which they claim is more advanced. One of these new specialized companies is ADASENS. It is a joint venture between Omron, a Japanese automotive electronics manufacturer, and Ficosa, a Spanish automotive systems and components manufacturer.

There is currently even more turbulence in the supply of automotive image sensors than there is of camera modules and systems. In 2007, image sensor supply to the automotive market was relatively fragmented, with a mix of “new” suppliers to this sector, including several startups, and established automotive suppliers. However, as with the whole image sensor market, the automotive field has seen many suppliers come and go over the last few years, without the actual number of active suppliers significantly changing. So while some suppliers left the market, many others — particularly sensor manufacturers who had been successful in mobile phones — started to look at the emerging automotive market.

However, the requirements of vehicles are different from those of mobile phones. Not only do vehicles demand systems with a long life, the systems must also be reliable and operate in much harsher environments. The automotive image sensor market is still very, very small compared with the whole image sensor market.

In 2009, 18.4 million security cameras are predicted to be shipped, and the number of mobile handsets shipped with cameras will be more than 800 million. In sharp contrast, only 4.7 million camera modules will be shipped in light vehicles. The question remains if new entrants to the automotive image sensor market, such as Sharp, will reap the rewards of their development efforts or will they leave the market as have so many before them.
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