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Your next car might prevent collisions

Japanese microchip maker NEC Electronics Corp. began shipping image detection chips for cars on Friday, with the first going into a new Lexus model.
/ Source: Reuters

Japanese microchip maker NEC Electronics Corp. began shipping image detection chips for cars on Friday, with the first going into a Toyota Motor Corp. Lexus model to be launched this fall.

Chips control a growing bulk of car functions from power door locks to transmission controllers, and NEC Electronics hopes to grab 40 percent of the emerging market for image detection chips in cars by 2015.

"Our share will be only a few percent in 2010, but by increasing the number of images the processor recognizes, we hope to become the de facto standard for carmakers worldwide by 2015," Yoshirou Miyaji, NEC Electronics general manager of auto systems, told reporters.

The new Lexus LS460 with the image processors will automatically slam on the brakes a split second before hitting a pedestrian or vehicle and prevent a collision or reduce impact.

NEC Electronics projects annual sales of the device will grow to 20 billion yen ($172 million) in 2015, which would be equivalent to 3 percent of the chipmaker's total sales in fiscal 2005.  Monthly production is expected to be 10,000 units at the end of fiscal 2007. 

In 2010, NEC Electronics expects 4 million cars to have image detection chips in place, with the market growing to 8.6 million cars in 2012 and 18 million cars in 2015. 

NEC Electronics, the world's eighth-largest chip maker, 70 percent owned by NEC Corp., posted an operating loss of 5.76 billion yen in the quarter ended June on poor sales of cell phone chips, and it sees the car industry as a long-term source of growing demand.

Image recognition technology is more widely known for enabling high-end surveillance cameras to pick out an individual in a crowd, but the market for them in cars is still small.

Honda Motor Co. Ltd. has also developed cars that give warning or swerve before hitting an object.