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Title:
VEHICLE VISION SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2006/064507
Kind Code:
A3
Abstract:
A vision system for a vehicle (Fig. 4), the vision system including at least one (Fig. 4, item 31), and preferably a plurality of video image acquisition devices mounted on the vehicle for acquiring three-dimensional video images of at least one portion of the environment of the vehicle (Fig. 4, items 31, 34), a 3D goggle-free display mounted inside the vehicle (See Fig. 4, item 35), for displaying the acquired 3D images on the 3D display (Fig. 4, items 35, 36, and 37).

Inventors:
AGASSI JOSEPH (IL)
RABINOWITZ NITZAN (IL)
DVIR IRA (IL)
Application Number:
IL2005/001354
Publication Date:
March 29, 2007
Filing Date:
December 16, 2005
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HUMAN MONITORING LTD (IL)
AGASSI JOSEPH (IL)
RABINOWITZ NITZAN (IL)
DVIR IRA (IL)
International Classes:
H04N7/00; G01C22/00; G02B27/22; G06G7/48; H04N9/47; H04N15/00
Foreign References:
US5883739A1999-03-16
US6445983B12002-09-03
US5179441A1993-01-12
US6113643A2000-09-05
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GADOR, Deborah et al. (Gador & Co. 53 Derech Hashalom, Ha'Vered Towe, 23rd Floor Givatayim, IL)
Download PDF:
Claims:

CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A vision system for a vehicle, the vision s ystem comprising: at least one means for acquiring three -dimensional (3D) video images of at least a portion of an environment surrounding a vehicle; at least one 3D display mounted inside said vehicle; and means for displaying said acquired 3D images on said at least one 3D display.

2. The vision system according to claim 1 , wherein said means for acquiring is a stereoscopic video image acquisition device.

3. The vision system according to claim 1 , wherein said means for acquiring includes a video image acquisition device and a processor for converting said video images into 3D images.

4. The vision system according to claim 1, wherein said means for acquiring includes a single array of light sensors coupled to a processor having a 3D - image synthesizing algorithm that generates two -focal point images based on 2D acquired images and perspective analysis, based on spatial analysis of a single image or the spatial and/or temporal differences between successive video frames.

5. The vision system according t o any of the preceding claims, further comprising means for adjusting overlapping of right and left fields of view of said images, while performing analog optical zoom.

6. The vision system according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said controller comprises means for digital zooming and overlapping correction of the field of view of said video image acquisition device, to allow various modes of the field of vision.

7. The vision system according to any of the preceding claims, wherein said images are acquired and displayed in real -time.

8. A vision system for a vehicle, the vision system comprising: at least one video image acquisition device mounted on the vehicle for acquiring images of at least a portion of an environment surrounding a vehicle , a controller coupled to the video image acquisition device for receiving images acquired by said video image acquisition device and providing 3 -dimensional (3D) images corresponding to said acquired images; and at least one 3D display inside the vehicle coupled to said controller and arranged to receive and display said 3-dimensional images for viewing in real -time .

9. The vision system according to claim 8, wherein said video image acquisition device is a stereoscopic video image acquisition device .

10. The vision system according to claim 8, wherein said video image acquisition device includes a CCD sensor and means for processing images from said sensor into 3-D images corresponding to images acquired by said sensor.

1 1. The vision system according to any of claims 8 to 10, including a plurality of video image acquisition devices mounted around the vehicle so as to provide images of an environment up to 360 degrees around the vehicle.

12. The vision system according to any of claims 8 to 10, including a plurality of stereoscopic image acquisition devices mounted around the vehicle so as to provide images of an environment up to 360 degrees around the vehicle.

13. The vision system according to either of claims 1 1 or 12, wherein each of said image acquisition devices is coupled to a central controller for providing said acquired images to at least one 3D display.

14. The vision system according to any of claims 8-13, further comprising means for providing zoom, to allow display of various modes of the field of view.

15. The vision system according to any of claims 8 to 13, further comprising means for displaying said 3D images as two-dimensional images on said 3D display.

16. The vision system according to any of claims 8 to 15, wherein said display is mounted on the vehicle.

17. The vision system according to any of claims 8 -16, wherein said images are acquired and displayed in real-time.

18. A method for providing images of at least at least a portion of an environment surrounding a vehicl e to a display inside the vehicle in real- time, the method comprising: mounting a three-dimensional (3D) display in a vehicle; acquiring 3D video images of at least one portion of an environment suiTounding said vehicle; and displaying said acquired 3D images on said 3D display.

19. The method according to claim 18, further comprising: mounting at least one video image acquisition device on said vehicle for acquiring video images of a portion of the environment surrounding the vehicle; coupling a controller to said video image acquisition device, said controller including means for receiving said images from said acquisition device and providing data corresponding to said 3D video images to said 3D display.

20. The method according to claim 19, wherein said step of mounting at least one video image acquisition device includes mounting at least one stereoscopic video image acquisition device on said vehicle.

21. The method according to claim 19, wherein said step of mounting at least one video image acquisition device includes mounting at least one 2D video image acquisition device on said vehicle, and coupling said device to a processor for processing images from said device into 3-D images corresponding to images acquired by said device.

22. The method according to any of claims 19 to 21 , further including displaying said 3D images as two-dimensional images on the 3D display.

23. The method according to claim 22, wherein said step of displaying includes removing the parallax barrier of the disp lay and using double resolution single 2D images.

24. The method according to any of claims 18 to 23, further including providing means for providing a zoom display.

Description:

VEHICLE VISION SYSTEM FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to vehicle vision systems, and particularly to a video system that provides at least partial coverage of the environment outside the vehicle, with an inner vehicle display for safe viewing by the driver.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Since the early days of the motor-vehicle industry, the quality of the driver's field of vision has deteriorated constantly. The early Ford T cars already had a three mirror set each, and it was far more effective than any modern three mirror set. Indeed, this old fashioned set is of the kind that can be found in the most expensive and luxurious modern car.

The field of vision of motorcars has been narrowing down and shrinking over the decades. The main cause may be the demand for aerodynamic designs, which has led designers to reduce the size of the car windows. The panoramic mirrors that car designers have placed in cars in an effort to expand the drivers' field of vision have led to the shrinking of the objects in the mirrors, and distort the driver's field of vision. The current set of mirrors has many limitations that are dictated by its being an optical system that depends on various factors, such as, but not limited to, the physical dimensions and geometry of the vehicle, the driver, the car's windows, and the size and quality of the optical mirrors. Consequently, the whole system performs poorly, as it does not provide the driver with vital visual information surrounding the vehicle. There are other reasons that make the conventional mirror system rather dangerous. For example, the mirror system forces drivers to take their attention off the road, in unnatural directions (e.g., diagonal search), and defocus their vision.

In addition, the rear view mirror, as positioned within the passenger compartment, is hazardous. It is a known significant cause of head injuries in cases of even mild accidents.

Other factors contributing to the poor visibility of the current set of three mirrors includes their size and their vulnerability to mist and dirt, that reduce visibility of both the mirrors and through the windows of the vehicle.

Night glare is another hazard that may plague the current set of mirrors, as every experienced driver can report. The side view and the rear view mirrors often reflect enough light from neighboring cars to blind drivers for a dangerous moment and leave them helplessly dependent on luck and the other drivers' proficiency. The fact that most rear view mirrors can be manually adjusted to a non -blinding mode is a cause of a different kind of hazard, since this often forces drivers to take their hands off the wheel, especially in already hazardous situations. This non-blinding mode also limits the driver's field of view even more, and reduces his distance and depth perception.

Another limitation of the three mirror set is that, in order to be properly functional, the mirrors require re -adjustment for every driver, with every change of the driver's adjustment of the driver's seat, and it is actually required even with the driver's change of posture. Since a single vehicle may be used by a number of alternating drivers, the mirrors of such vehicles are seldom optimally adjusted. In some families, the more proficient driver simply does not touch the mirrors out of consideration for others, thereby reducing their own proficiency.

The optical geometry between the driver's eyes, the mirrors and the sides of the vehicle usually dictates installation of the side view mirr ors in inefficient locations. The driver's field of vision may also be reduced by different structures on the vehicle (e.g., side bars). Combined in a certain way, however seldom, these limitations are dangerous: in many cases, the dead areas of the field of vision and the dead area of the retina may combine to create an unsuspected drop in visibility. The drivers' fields of vision may then be completely blocked, and without suspicion of danger. Since, in the

best of cases, the field of vision is expected t o be fractional and incomplete, drivers are willing to reduce their efficiency from the start, and they seldom have the presence of mind to ask, how big the reduction should be to force them off the road.

Some attempts have recently been made to create a continuous field of vision. The standard method is that of using oversized panoramic mirrors. However, since most mirrors are glued to the windshield, the heavier panoramic mirrors tend to drop after a while. Furthermore, these mirrors may block a substan tial area of the windshield, and they may distort the view to a degree that the average driver cannot estimate. This can mislead drivers, particularly regarding their perception of the orientation of their vehicles.

Most of the drawbacks of the three mirrors set are inherent in any optical device. The vehicle's bars and windows may limit the driver's field of vision significantly. Three adult passengers in the back seat also might reduce the field of vision significantly. Side mirrors may create turbulences that add to the instability of the vehicle, and render entry to narrow parking spaces and small garages difficult. Also, of course, they are breakable, especially in cities with narrow streets. Some expensive cars have electrically folding mirrors to avoid such damage. Electrically adjusted and electrically folding mirrors are expensive and they increase the hazard of toying with mirrors.

Another solution known in the prior art is the Volvo Safety Concept Car (SCC) in which the car has a rear -facing camera. The camera is mounted in the roof header. It displays images from behind the car to a mini-monitor positioned in front of the driver, making it easier to drive in reverse, should something block the driver's view. Sensors have also been incorporated into both the rear- view-mirror and rear bumper to alert the driver should a situation indicate danger. This device provides a 2 - dimensional view of the rear of the vehicle for the driver on the mini-monitor, but still requires the use of side mirrors to see the area adjacent the sides of the vehicle.

A major disadvantage of two-dimensional viewing of the environment of the vehicle is that it does not provide depth perception for the driver, but rather distorts the view as would be seen with the driver's eyes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a novel vehicle vision acquisition and display system which provides the driver with a three- dimensional view of one or more areas around the vehicle. Unlike the Volvo concept, the present inventio n permits replacement of the entire mirror set with a vision blocking -free system that could be either analog or digital or a combination of both, from camera to display. The present invention may do away with the existing three mirror set altogether.

While the invention is described hereinbelow with relation to a passenger car, it will be appreciated that it can be used effectively in any sort of vehicle, including trucks, tanks, airplanes, boats, motorcycles, and so on.

There is thus provided, in accordan ce with the present invention, a vision system for a vehicle, the vision system including at least one device for acquiring three-dimensional (3D) video images of at least a portion of an environment surrounding a vehicle, at least one 3D display mounted inside the vehicle, and an element for displaying the acquired 3D images on the at least one 3D display.

There is also provided, in accordance with one embodiment of the invention, a vision system for a vehicle, the vision system including at least one vide o image acquisition device mounted on the vehicle for acquiring images of at least a portion of the environment surrounding the vehicle, a controller coupled to the video image acquisition device for receiving images acquired by the video image acquisition device and providing 3 -dimensional images corresponding to the acquired images, and at least one 3 dimensional display inside the vehicle coupled to the controller and arranged to receive and display the 3 dimensional images, for safe viewing of the 3 -

dimensional images by the driver in real-time, that does not require additional optical devices, such as goggles or special eye glasses, to view.

According to a preferred embodiment, the vision system includes several video acquisition devices mounted around the vehicle, so as to provide an image of an environment up to 360 degrees around the vehicle.

According to one embodiment, the stereoscopic acquisition device includes at least one pair of light sensors with associated optics mounted such that their fiel ds of view overlap substantially as do those of human eyes.

According to another embodiment, the stereoscopic acquisition device includes a single light sensor array coupled with 3D image synthesizing algorithms that generate two-focal point images based on the 2D acquired image and perspective analysis, based on the spatial analysis of a single image or the spatial and/or temporal differences between successive video frames.

There is also provided, in accordance with the present invention, a method for providing images of at least at least a portion of an environment surrounding a vehicle to a display inside the vehicle in real-time, the method including mounting a three - dimensional (3D) display in a vehicle, acquiring 3D video images of at least one portion of an environment surrounding the vehicle, and displaying the acquired 3D images on the 3D display.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention may be understood and appreciated more fully from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the appended drawings in which: Fig. 1 is a simplified pictorial illustration of a 3D video system for vehicle vision, constructed and operative in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

Fig. 2 is a block diagram of the operation of the 3D video system of Fig. 1;

Fig. 3a is a schematic illustration of a video acquisition device according to one embodiment of the invention;

Fig. 3b is a schematic illustration of a video acquisition device according to an alternative embodiment of the invention; and

Fig. 4 is a simplified pictorial illustration of a 3D video system for vehicle vision, constructed and operative in accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention; and

Fig. 5 is a block diagram of the operatio n of the 3D video system of Fig. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

This invention relates generally to vehicle vision systems, and particularly to a video system acquiring three dimensional video images of at least a portion of an environment surrounding a vehicle and displaying these images on a three dimensional display, that may provide up to a full 360 degree coverage of the environment around the vehicle, on an inner vehicle display for safe viewing by the driver. This is accomplished by feed ing three-dimensional (3D) video images of at least a portion of the environment around a vehicle to a three dimensional display inside the vehicle. The 3D images can be acquired by a stereoscopic video acquisition device, such as a three dimensional video camera, having two sensors, slightly displaced from each other, each providing a fully or partially overlapping field of view, or by a video image acquisition device, such as a standard video camera, having one sensor whose output is treated with an appr opriate algorithm which synthesizes 3D images therefrom. It will be appreciated that the mere principle of detaching the vision -acquisition from the display devices allows for an optimal location of the vision acquisition devices (e.g., stereoscopic video sensors) and the display, while retaining 3D vision for the driver, which is so important for safe driving.

Reference is now made to Fig. 1, which illustrates a 3D video system 10 for vehicle vision, constructed and operative in accordance with one embodi ment of the present invention.

In accordance with one non-limiting embodiment of the present invention, the proposed system 10 comprises a rear-view video image acquisition device 12, here illustrated as two video cameras, mounted on the vehicle 11 in such a way that their fields of view cover overlapping portions of the rear view of the vehicle and the area behind the vehicle. Alternatively, the rear -view video image acquisition device can be a single stereoscopic device capable of capturing 3D images directly, referred to hereinbelow as a stereoscopic video image acquisition device. Preferably, the field of view of the video image acquisition device 12 is similar to the size of that seen in a

conventional rear -view mirror, if not wider. Video acquisition d evice 12 may be a 3D camera or a pair of coordinated 2D cameras, or any other suitable means for acquiring a stereoscopic image of the field of view, such as an array of light sensors, e.g., a pair of CCD or CMOS sensors with associated optics. The rear vi ew video acquisition device may be located on the roof of the vehicle or at the top of the rear window, or in any other suitable location for acquiring an unobstructed image of the environment around the rear end of the vehicle.

Preferably, the sensors 14 of the acquisition device (most preferably CMOS sensors) are capable of high speed, low light, sharp image acquisition (for example, the OmniVision CMOS CameraChips manufactured by OmniVision Technologies, Inc. of Sunnyvale, CA, USA, in use in the automotive industry). They should be capable of operating at extreme temperatures, preferably from -40°C to +85°C. Preferably, the optical elements of the acquisition device have a field of view angle similar to that of the human eye, to create a matching depth effect similar to that of human vision. T

Coupled to the acquisition device, via any wireless or wired method, is a controller 16 for receiving signals output by the video acquisition device and providing a 3-dimensional image of the field of view of the vide o acquisition device. Controller 16 may be a video controlling and distribution board which processes the signals received from sensors 14 into three-dimensional images for display to the driver.

Controller 16 is coupled, in turn, to a 3D display 20 inside the vehicle, which requires no special optical devices, such as goggles or special glasses, for three dimensional viewing. Display 20 provides safe viewing of the 3 -dimensional images of at least a portion of the environment surrounding the vehicle by the driver in real - time. Display 20 is preferably disposed in the dashboard of the vehicle for ease of viewing without requiring the driver to turn his or her head. The embodiment of Fig. 1 includes a single stereoscopic video acquisition device 12, and therefore, only a single view is displayed on display 20. If desired, controller 16 may include software

providing zoom, so as to permit the driver to enlarge or shrink the field of view observed in the display. Display 20 may be a parallax barrier 3D flat pan el (like the Sharp free viewing 3D), or a lenticular 3D viewing panel, such as the Philips - LGYMitsubishi lenticular free 3D viewing panels, or any other display that permits three-dimensional viewing of three -dimensional video images.

According to one preferred embodiment of the invention, illustrated schematically in Fig. 3a, the video acquisition device 12' is based on a pair of CCD/CMOS sensors 14, 14' and completing optical components 18, such as appropriate lenses. One example of a suitable sensor is a CMOS sensor having F<2.55, and an associated 28-85mm lens, most preferably a 50mm lens, having a viewing angle > 140 degrees. When using a pair of sensors, the preferred mounting distance between them is 5-8cm, most preferably 6.4cm, to simulate the feeling of three dimensions of natural human perception and prevent distortion. It will be appreciated that, when the acquisition device consists of two sensors 14 with associated optics, each sensor preferably is provided with an adjustable mount 22 for mounting the sensor on the vehicle. Mounts 22 are positioned a predetermined distance from one another and adjusted to cover an overlapping field of view such that the sensors can acquire images simulating human 3D stereoscopic vision. The mounts 22 can be controlled so as to adjust the distance and the angle between the sensors, to maintain the desired overlapping field of view. In this embodiment, controller 16 also controls the sensor mounts 22 .

When two sensors are used for the creation of the stereoscopic v ideo, the controller 16 is responsible for three main tasks. First, the controller controls the fine adjustment of the field of view of the right and left images, so that the field of view of both optical sensors will be overlapping to the desired degree. Second, the controller is programmed for interweaving of the right and left images into a single frame that can be presented to the driver over the 3D display. The interweaving is preferably carried out by interleaving columns of pixels of the right image into the left image (or vice versa) in order to create a three dimensional image that can be displayed on a

three dimensional display. If desired, the controller can also permit digital zooming and overlapping correction of the field of view of both optica 1 sensors, to allow various modes of the field of vision, preferably as selected by the driver.

According to another preferred embodiment, shown schematically in Fig. 3b , the video acquisition device 12" is based on a single CCD/CMOS sensor 14" with associated optical components 18'. In this case, the output of the sensor 14" is processed in controller 16' using 3D image synthesizing algorithms that generate two - focal points images based on the 2D acquired image and perspective analysis, based on the spatial analysis of a single image, or on the temporal and spatial differences between successive acquired images. This is preferably done by generating a trajectory of moving view points, and calculating the relative position of objects to the camera's point of view, thus creating a 3D environment, and enabling setting of two focal points within this environment. Here, the controller 16' is responsible for this synthesis of the 3D video based on the 2D video images. It also includes appropriate software for producing interleaving right-left stereoscopic frames. Once the 3D video has been processed, the controller 16' distributes the video stream to the display. It will be appreciated that video acquisition device 12" is also provided with an adjustable mount (not shown), to permit adjustment of the angle and field of view of the device. Optionally, a solid-state memory based storage unit, or "black box" 24 may be provided in the vehicle, coupled to controller 16. Black box 24 is arranged to receive and record video data from the video acquisition device, directly, or preferably through the controller board, as well as the vehicle's computer statistics (such as engine rotations, speed, etc.), if desired. In this way, a continuous record is available of the state of the vehicle in case of an accident.

In both cases described above, the controller 16, 16' is also responsible for storing the video content (2D or 3D) in a storage unit 24, for example, a solid-state memory, preferably a FLASH memory, like a CF or SD card, and for managing the storage, preferably as a cyclic file, the duration of which can be set as desired. The

stored images can be reproduced and viewed when desired, such as after an accident or for teaching purposes, or at any other time. The controller is coupled for wired or wireless communication with the acquisition devices' video output. If desired, the controller may be coupled to a cellular network, and arranged to provide a wireless connection of the vehicle with the outside world (e.g., a pre -selected cellular phone or computerized traffic control center) for transferring essential video and other essential vehicle data in case of an accident, or for any other desired purpose, such as traffic control. In addition, controller 16, 16' will be coupled to the acquisition device, and/or its mount or mounts, to permit adjustment of the acquisition device position (i.e., field of view), in a similar manner to that of electric mirrors.

Operation of this embodiment of the invention will now be described with reference to Fig. 2. First, a video image acquisition device 12 is mounted in a desired location on the vehicle. The angle of the device 12 is adjusted to provide the desired field of view. This can be accomplished by adjusting the location of the video acquisition device and/or by adjusting the orientation of its mount. Generally, this adjustment can be accomplished in the factory, and need not be done again, except if the device has been hit and its angle changed. If desired, controls can be provided to permit adjustment of the field of view by the driver. When driving, stereoscopic video images of the surrounding area are acquired by the video acquisition device 12 and sent to the controller 16 in any conventional wired or wireless manner, including, but not limited to, WiFi, WLAN, infrared, Bluetooth, or any other known wireless transmission method.

In controller 16, the images received from the stereoscopic acquisition device are weaved for three dimensional display, and sent to 3D display 20, so as to permit the driver to view, in real time, three dimensional video images of the traffic behind and surrounding his car. It will be appreciated that controller 16 may be provided with an algorithm for compressing the data, if desired. According to one embodiment, buttons are provided inside the vehicle by which the driver can cause the display to "zoom in", i.e., display an enlarged view of a portion of the field of view, or "zoom

out". Images sent to the display are also sent simultaneously to a black box 24 for storage, in any wired or wireless manner. Preferably, the images sent to storage are refreshed cyclically.

According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, illustrated schematically in Fig. 4, the system includes any or all of a plurality of video image acquisition devices 31-34, which are mounted in various locations along the roof and/or sides of the vehicle, in order to capture video images of any desired section of the environment around the vehicle, and, thus, expand the display provided for the driver. For example, one stereoscopic video acquisition device (i.e., one pair of sensors) 34 is provided facing the rear of the vehicle. The rear view sensors are preferably located on the roof of the vehicle or at the top of the rear window. Side - view video acquisition devices 32 and 33 are mounted for viewing along the sides of the vehicle. The side sensors may be located on the top or the side of the front wings or fenders of the vehicle (to avoid the traditionally dead areas behind the driver's shoulder). It is a particular feature of the invention that direct eye contact between the driver and the location he is viewing is no longer required. The system may also include video acquisition devices 31 aimed towards the front of the vehicle, for improved vision when the windshield is obstructed, or for storage for documentation and/or investigation purposes. All the video acquisition devices are coupled to a controller or compression board 38. Controller 38 weaves the sensed signals into one or more three-dimensional video images and transfers these three -dimensional images to one or more 3D display panels 35, 36, 37, which are located in front of the driver (preferably embedded in the dashboard of the vehicle). It will be appreciated that the driver can view the 3D image without the use of any optical devices, such as goggles. The display may replace the existing dashboard, or be mounted on the upper part of the windshield, straight above the driver. The display may include separate panels 36 and 37 for displaying the side views separately from the back view 35, if desired. An additional flat panel for front viewing may be added, if desired to provide views from all around the vehicle.

Controller 38 is preferably also coupled to the vehicle's internal computer 40, and may be coupled to a wireless module 41. Wireless module 41 permits automatic transmission of vehicle data and acquired video images to a pre- selected destination, such as an ambulance service or traffic control center, in case of an accident, or for any other desired purpose. The wireless communication module (preferably a smart connection to the vehicle's cellular phone) allows for emergency alert in case of an accident, delivering the video data to the right authorities, allowing efficient investigation and medical first aid.

The output video images of the video acquisition devices may also be transferred to a recording device 40 (preferably a solid-state hard drive), preferably after weaving by the controller. The recorded video may be in 2D or 3D formats, and may be stored in a compressed or an uncompressed form, in its original or downsampled resolution. The recorded video may also include the video output of a front view stereoscopic video acquisition device, which, combined with the rear and side-views recorded video, could be instrumental in post -accident investigations. According to one embodiment, the recording device 40 records 10-360 seconds of 2D or 3D video images from all the sensors, in addition to the vehicle's computer statistics, such as engine revolutions, velocity, etc. It may optionally include means for providing multi-3D streams compression. This device acts like a "black box" in airplanes, to provide a visual indication and statistics of the last few seconds or minutes before occurrence of an accident.

Operation of this embodiment of the invention is as follows, with reference to Fig. 5. Stereoscopic video images of the portions of the area surrounding a vehicle are acquired by a plurality of stereoscopic video acquisition device 31 to 34, mounted in the desired locations on the vehicle. These images are sent to the controller 38 in any conventional wired or wireless manner. In controller 38, the images received by the various sensors are processed into 3D images and weaved for three dimensional display. It will be appreciated that the signals received from each stereoscopic acquisition device are weaved into a separate 3D image and sent to one or more 3D

display panels, so as to permit the driver to view, in real time, three dimensional video images of the areas around his car. Thus, images from each device can be displayed on a separate display, or the controller can combine all the images into a single panoramic-like display for the driver. Images sent to the display are also sent simultaneously to a storage unit (black box) 39 for storage. The video and vehicle data may be stored in cyclic files of a given duration (5 seconds to many hours) to allow efficient post-accident investigation.

According to one embodiment, t he computer 40 of the vehicle is also coupled to controller 38, and data regarding the state of the various systems controlled by the vehicle computer are provided to the controller. In this case, the car data are also sent, synchronized with the images, t o storage unit 39 for storage. It will be appreciated that, in case of an accident, storage unit 39 has stored at least 15 seconds of images and data. At the same time, in case of an accident, these images may be sent automatically via wireless connection to a pre-selected location, whether cell phone or control center.

According to an alternative embodiment of the invention, each image acquisition device may have its own controller for providing three dimensional images, which may all be sent to a central controller for display and storage.

It is a particular feature of the invention that the proposed system overcomes all the limitations of the optical geometry which limits conventional mirror systems, allowing professionally fixed optimized adjustment (in a similar manner to the vehicle's headlights) of preferably over 180 degrees, and uninterrupted continuous field of vision, regardless of the driver's size and posture. Thus, the vision system need not be adjusted whenever a different driver takes the wheel. Rather, the ideal view of some or all areas around the vehicle will appear at a convenient location for viewing by any driver. The mere principle of detaching the vision-acquisition from the display devices allows for an optimal location of the vision acquisition devices (e.g., stereoscopic video sensors) and the display.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that existing optical mirror systems assist the driver by permitting him or her to judge the true distance between vehicles by means of human 3D perception. The present invention also provides perception of depth and distances by the use of a 3D video system, which is not possible in conventional 2D systems. The digital process may combine the different video camera outputs into a single continuous display, or may keep the traditional side/rear view separation.

Furthermore, unlike the prior art devices, the stereoscopic video acquisition devices of the present invention may enhance the video acquisition quality by automatically adjusting the brightness/gamma of the acquired images, according to the lighting conditions. The sensors and/or the controller can automatically adjust the brightness/gamma level according to the situation. This is a most common feature to most CMOS sensors, and c an be implemented by any man skilled in the art. They may also prevent blinding by headlights of other vehicles by suppressing the direct light. The suppression mechanism, in addition, may be automatic and/or adjustable.

The sensors and associated optics of the present invention may be protected somewhat from dirt, mist, and other blocking elements, in a manner that resembles the maintenance of the cleanliness of the car's headlights. Attaching the rear -view camera to the rear window may eliminate the prob lem of mist on the rear windshield blocking the driver's vision. In addition, even if the vehicle is equipped with a rear window wiper, the sensor will never be blocked by the wiper, in the way conventional mirrors often are. Such location will also help t o secure the acquisition devices from theft and/or damage.

As stated above, the present invention may enhance a post -accident investigation to a level typical or even better than that of aviation accidents. The video storage device, or black box, may be m ounted in any suitable place in the vehicle, such as but not limited to, the underside of the chassis or in the engine compartment, and record (continuously or in a cyclic way) the output of all the installed video acquisition devices. An additional (prefe rably wide angle) stereoscopic video

acquisition device, facing the front of the vehicle, can complete the recorded field of view to 360 degrees. In case of an accident, the recorded video data of the vehicle - or more than one vehicle, in case there was more than a single vehicle involved, will fully document the accident from different points of view. Such a system may be time-synchronized with other vehicles through GPS or any other time-synchronizing method. The controller board preferably also receives the vehicle's data (speed, engine RPM, wheel position, braking status, etc.) from the vehicle's computer and store it along synchronized with the video data.

The stereoscopic image acquisition device preferably includes an overlapping adjusting mechanism to allow the sensor to operate in multi zoom modes. This can be accomplished in several ways. If the optical system of the acquisition device allows it, the controller board, by means of finding a global -matching algorithm, adjusts the overlapping of the right and left fields of view, while performing analog optical zoom. When a digital zoom is performed, the controller board takes care of matching the overlapping parts of the Right and Left fields of view, based on the portions of the image which are digitally enlarged. Alternatively, any other method of providing zoom for 3D images may be provided.

In another embodiment of the invention, a portion of the data transmission to the display is blocked. Since quite a significant percentage of the drivers are in capable of perceiving 3D images, even with conventional optical mirror-sets, due to ocular disabilities, like having a "lazy eye", it is desired to present the images to the driver as complete two-dimensional images. (It will be appreciated that, for a per son who sees the image only with one eye, a full 3D image is seen as a half -resolution image, as he does not see the complementary image intended for his second eye.) For such a driver, the system could allow the user to select a special mode, wherein the 3D images are displayed as 2D images on the 3D display (as if displaying 2D information). This could be accomplished by the controller allowing images to be displayed from only one of the sensors (in the case of dual -sensor aquisition device), or displaying the images as acquired (in the case of a single- sensor acquisition device). Preferably, this

is accomplished by removing the parallax barrier of the display, which may be carried out electronically, and using double resolution single 2D images.

It will be appreciated that, while the invention has been illustrated with the display inside the vehicle, alternatively, the display could be mounted anywhere on vehicle, even on the outside of windshield, if made of sufficiently resistant materials and/or if the display is protected from the elements.

While the invention has been described with respect to a limited number of embodiments, it will be appreciated that many variations, modifications and other applications of the invention may be made. It will further be appreciated that the invention is not limited to what has been described hereinabove merely by way of example. Rather, the invention is limited solely by the claims which follow.