Title:
Video recorder for an automobile
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system for recording a video image is disclosed. The system is mounted in a vehicle and captures the video image that is viewable from the vehicle. The system includes a video capture device for capturing the video image, a first memory storage device, a second memory storage device, a vibration sensor, and a processor The video capture device is mounted to the vehicle. The first memory storage device is in communication with the vehicle capture device for temporarily storing the video image. The second memory storage device is in communication with the video capture device and the first storage device for permanently storing the video image. The vibration sensor is fixedly mounted to the vehicle for detecting a vehicle vibration. The processor is in communication with the video capture device and the vibration sensor and has executable code for monitoring the vibration sensor and determining whether a predefined vibration threshold has been reached.



Inventors:
Melnyk, Borys Joseph (Allen Park, MI, US)
Berneis, Paul Allen (Dexter, MI, US)
Bray, Thomas J. (Saline, MI, US)
Matson, Jeff (White Lake, MI, US)
Quigley, John H. (Northville, MI, US)
Application Number:
10/273507
Publication Date:
05/01/2003
Filing Date:
10/18/2002
Assignee:
Visteon Global Technologies, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
348/118, 386/279, 386/331, 386/E5.001
International Classes:
G07C5/08; H04N5/76; H04N5/781; H04N5/85; H04N9/804; (IPC1-7): H04N5/781
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
TEKLE, DANIEL T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GARDNER GROFF & GREENWALD, PC (Marietta, GA, US)
Claims:
1. A system for recording a video image, the system is mounted in a vehicle and captures the video image that is viewable from the vehicle, the system comprising: a video capture device mounted to the vehicle for capturing the video image; a first memory storage device in communication with the vehicle capture device for temporarily storing the video image; a second memory storage device in communication with the video capture device and the first storage device for permanently storing the video image; a vibration sensor fixedly mounted to the vehicle for detecting a vehicle vibration; and a processor in communication with the video capture device and the vibration sensor and having executable code for monitoring the vibration sensor and determining whether a predefined vibration threshold has been reached.

2. The system of claim 1 further comprising volatile memory for storing the video image prior to writing the video image to one of the first and second memory storage devices.

3. The system of claim 1 further comprising a video interface device for receiving video image data from the video capture device and transmitting the video image data to the processor.

4. The system of claim 1 wherein the video capture device is a digital video camera.

5. The system of claim 1 wherein the first memory storage device is a hard disk drive.

6. The system of claim 1 wherein the second memory storage device is a digital versatile disk drive.

7. The system of claim 1 wherein the vibration sensor is an accelerometer.

8. The system of claim 1 further comprising a vehicle status indicator in communication with the processor for detecting and transmitting a vehicle status to the processor.

9. The system of claim 8 wherein the vehicle status is a transmission position.

10. The system of claim 8 wherein the vehicle status is an ignition switch position.

11. The system of claim 1 further comprising a microphone for capturing an audio signal, the microphone being in communication with the processor for receiving and storing the audio signal on one of the first and second memory devices.

12. The system of claim 1 further comprising a wireless microphone for capturing an audio signal.

13. The system of claim 12 further comprising a wireless receiver in communication with the processor for capturing the audio signal transmitted by the wireless microphone and storing the audio signal on one of the first and second memory devices.

14. The system of claim 1 further comprising a encoder in communication with the processor compressing the video image for storage on one of the first and second memory devices.

15. The system of claim 14 wherein the encoder is an MPEG-4 encoder.

16. A method for recording a video image viewable from a vehicle, the method comprising: acquiring a video image using a video capture device; determining a vehicle operation state; and storing the video image on one of a first memory storage device and a second memory storage device in communication with the video capture device depending on the determined vehicle operation state.

17. The method of claim 16 further comprising acquiring an audio signal using an audio capture device.

18. The method of claim 17 further comprising storing the audio signal on one of the first memory storage device and the second memory storage device in communication with the audio capture device depending on the determined vehicle operation state.

19. The method of claim 16 wherein determining a vehicle operation state further comprises determining whether the vehicle is moving.

20. The method of claim 19 further comprising storing the video image on the first memory storage device in communication with the video capture device when the vehicle is determined to be moving.

21. The method of claim 18 wherein determining a vehicle operation state further comprises determining whether the vehicle is stationary.

22. The method of claim 21 further comprising storing the video image on the second memory storage device in communication with the video capture device when the vehicle is determined to be stationary.

23. The method of claim 16 wherein determining a vehicle operation state further comprises determining whether a vehicle speed threshold has been exceeded.

24. The method of claim 23 further comprising storing the acquired video image on a third memory device when the vehicle speed threshold has been exceeded.

25. The method of claim 24 wherein storing the acquired video image on a third memory device further comprises storing the acquired video image on a non-volatile memory.

26. The method of claim 16 further comprising determining whether a vehicle vibration threshold has been exceeded.

27. The method of claim 26 further comprising storing the acquired video image on a third memory device when the vehicle vibration threshold has been exceeded.

28. The method of claim 27 wherein storing the acquired video image on a third memory device further comprises storing the acquired video image on a volatile memory.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present invention claims priority to U.S. Provisional Serial No. 60/340,790 filed on Oct. 29, 2001, entitled “Video Recorder For An Automobile.”

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates to video recording devices for creating video recordings to document events taking place within the interior of the vehicle or external of the vehicle.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Today many police vehicles have video systems installed to record activity taking place in front of and sometimes inside the vehicle. The primary use of the video is evidentiary, both to show what the officers and suspects did and to show what the officers did not do (e.g., when police brutality is alleged).

[0004] The video information is normally recorded on videotape, typically either VHS or HI-8 format). Most often the recorder is in the vehicle trunk in a locked vault. Sometimes the recorder is in the passenger compartment, with or without a vault. In most cases the video system prevents information on the tape from being recorded over by the officer.

[0005] The problems with the current implementations are: videotape is not a robust medium, video recorders jam and otherwise misbehave, and they are relatively sensitive to temperature variations. Additionally, videotape is bulky and therefore agencies must devote substantial storage space to the videotapes. Videotape is a rewritable medium and therefore subject to tampering. Videotape is a serial access medium, therefore it is difficult to access a particular time or to search a tape. Videotape is difficult to annotate. The current state of the art is to superimpose text and icons on top of the image, but this may overlay critical information on the image.

[0006] Thus, there is a need for a new and improved system and method to create video recordings. The system and method should compress the video data, using a technique such as MPEG4 or similar technique. Additionally, the system and method should offer higher image quality. Furthermore, the video data should be much easier to process when needed.

SUMMARY

[0007] In an aspect of the present invention a system for recording a video image is provided. The system is mounted in a vehicle and captures the video image that is viewable from the vehicle. The system includes a video capture device for capturing the video image, a first memory storage device, a second memory storage device, a vibration sensor, and a processor. The video capture device is mounted to the vehicle. The first memory storage device is in communication with the vehicle capture device for temporarily storing the video image. The second memory storage device is in communication with the video capture device and the first storage device for permanently storing the video image. The vibration sensor is fixedly mounted to the vehicle for detecting a vehicle vibration. The processor is in communication with the video capture device and the vibration sensor and has executable code for monitoring the vibration sensor and determining whether a predefined vibration threshold has been reached.

[0008] In another aspect of the present invention, a volatile memory for storing the video image prior to writing the video image to one of the first and second memory storage devices is provided.

[0009] In yet another aspect of the present invention, a video interface device for receiving video image data from the video capture device and transmitting the video image data to the processor is provided.

[0010] In yet another aspect of the present invention, the video capture device is a digital video camera.

[0011] In yet another aspect of the present invention, the first memory storage device is a hard disk drive.

[0012] In yet another aspect of the present invention, the second memory storage device is a digital versatile disk drive.

[0013] In yet another aspect of the present invention, the vibration sensor is an accelerometer.

[0014] In yet another aspect of the present invention, a vehicle status indicator in communication with the processor for detecting and transmitting a vehicle status to the processor is provided.

[0015] In yet another aspect of the present invention, the vehicle status is a transmission position.

[0016] In yet another aspect of the present invention, the vehicle status is an ignition switch position.

[0017] In yet another aspect of the present invention, a microphone for capturing an audio signal is provided, the microphone being in communication with the processor for receiving and storing the audio signal on one of the first and second memory devices.

[0018] In yet another aspect of the present invention, a wireless microphone for capturing an audio signal is provided.

[0019] In yet another aspect of the present invention, a wireless receiver in communication with the processor for capturing the audio signal transmitted by the wireless microphone and storing the audio signal on one of the first and second memory devices is provided.

[0020] In yet another aspect of the present invention, an encoder in communication with the processor for compressing the video image for storage on one of the first and second memory devices is provided.

[0021] In yet another aspect of the present invention, the encoder is an MPEG-4 encoder.

[0022] In still another aspect of the present invention, a method for recording a video image viewable from a vehicle is provided. The method includes acquiring a video image using a video capture device, determining a vehicle operating state, and storing the video image on one of a first memory storage device and a second memory storage device in communication with the video capture device depending on the determined vehicle operating state.

[0023] In still another aspect of the present invention, acquiring an audio signal using an audio capture device is provided.

[0024] In still another aspect of the present invention, storing the audio signal on one of the first memory storage device and the second memory storage device in communication with the audio capture device depending on the determined vehicle operation state is provided.

[0025] In still another aspect of the present invention, determining a vehicle operating state further includes determining whether the vehicle is moving.

[0026] In still another aspect of the present invention, storing the video image on the first memory storage device in communication with the video capture device when the vehicle is determined to be moving is provided.

[0027] In still another aspect of the present invention, determining a vehicle operation state further comprises determining whether the vehicle is stationary.

[0028] In still another aspect of the present invention, storing the video image on the second memory storage device in communication with the video capture device when the vehicle is determined to be stationary is provided.

[0029] In still another aspect of the present invention, determining a vehicle operation state further includes determining whether a vehicle speed threshold has been exceeded.

[0030] In still another aspect of the present invention, storing the acquired video image on a third memory device when the vehicle speed threshold has been exceeded is provided.

[0031] In still another aspect of the present invention, storing the acquired video image on a third memory device further includes storing the acquired video image on a non-volatile memory.

[0032] In still another aspect of the present invention determines whether a vehicle vibration threshold has been exceeded.

[0033] In still another aspect of the present invention, this method stores the acquired video image on a third memory device when the vehicle vibration threshold has been exceeded.

[0034] In still another aspect of the present invention, storing the acquired video image on a third memory device includes storing the acquired video image on a volatile memory.

[0035] These and other aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description of the invention in combination with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[0036] FIG. 1 is a block diagram depicting a system for capturing and recording a video image, in accordance with the present invention; and

[0037] FIG. 2 is a flow chart illustrating a method for capturing and recording a video image in a vehicle and/or external of the vehicle, in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0038] With reference to FIG. 1, a vehicle having a system 10 for capturing and recording a video image is provided, in accordance with the present invention. System 10 utilizes a DVD 16, which originally stood for Digital Video Disk and now stands for Digital Versatile Disk, and CD or Compact Disk technologies. The major difference between the two technologies is that the DVD is newer and can hold between 9 and 25 times the data that a CD can hold. Of course, the present invention contemplates using emerging technologies. In place of or in conjunction with the DVD player 16 such as Blu-ray technology. Blu-ray is an emerging technology that has the same form factor as a CD and has a storage capacity of 27 giga-bytes.

[0039] Both technologies have at their core a mass produced version, which uses a combination of printing and stamping processes to produce the disks in high volume. There are also one-time recordable versions, CD-R or DVD-R, and re-recordable versions, CD-RW and DVD-RW. The RW stands for Re-Writable.

[0040] The CD originally had only one format, the audio compact disk. Additional file formats for the CD have been defined which include the CD-ROM, which has a computer file system and a Video CD, or VCD, which uses the CD-ROM file system, with the necessary files to make it compatible with a DVD player.

[0041] DVD disks all have a file system similar to a CD-ROM only larger. A video DVD has the necessary files to support video, audio versions have audio only files, and a DVD-ROM contains computer programs and data.

[0042] The Video CD (VCD) uses MPEG-1 encoding to compress up to 80 minutes of video onto a standard CD-R, which can be played on a computer or a recently manufactured DVD player. The quality of the video on a VCD is approaching that of VHS tape and has been very popular in Asia. There is some interest in the US because creating one is very simple and only requires a regular CD-R burner. With the availability of the DVD-R, VCD has a tough road to follow.

[0043] DVD technology has two basic configurations, DVD-5 and DVD-9. The differences between the two are that one holds approximately 5 GB (Giga-Bytes) of data, the other has a second layer and can store approximately 9 GB of data. A DVD can be either single or double sided. A double-sided DVD-9 disk can hold almost 18 GB of data, audio, or video.

[0044] The standard video DVD uses MPEG-2 compression to store approximately two hours of video on a DVD-5 disk.

[0045] Professional DVD-R systems are designed for authoring DVD disks that will ultimately be mass-produced. The drives support DVD-5 and DVD-9 format disks that directly match standard mass-produced disks.

[0046] Consumer DVD-R systems use a modified DVD-R disk that does not support the CSS encryption system used on mass-produced DVDs. The disks are single density and hold slightly less data than a DVD-5 disk holds. To ensure that the professional disks are not used in the consumer unit, the disks use inks that respond to different frequency lasers. The consumer DVD-R drives support not only the DVD-R and DVD-RW but also support all the CD-R/RW disks as well.

[0047] Tape and optical disk based technologies each have their strengths and weaknesses. Each format is discussed below.

[0048] Tape based technology is the standard for recording video, including police video footage. For police applications, the primary advantage the tape has is that the tape is a linear recording technology; it starts at the beginning and goes to the end. Because of this, it has the following advantages: (1) it preserves the sequence of the events that have been recorded. Once recorded the tape is difficult to modify without leaving evidence of the modification. (2) When done recording, the tape does not require any finishing steps, such as closing out the recording, to make the tape usable. (3) The mass of the moving media is small and the movement of the recording mechanism is primarily rotational, making it relatively impervious to shock and vibration. However, tape transports do require protection from shock and vibration in an automotive environment so that flexing of the mechanism does not cause the tape to move out of position, potentially causing a jam. (4) The overall recording will survive even if a small section of tape has a problem due to a shock or other event; only the small section is affected. However, tape does have its problems. These are, for example: (1) Tape is fragile; it breaks and stretches easily and is very sensitive to environmental hazards, such as water and other liquids. (2) High heat can destroy tape very quickly. (3) Rough handling by humans, other living creatures, and the tape transport mechanism also pose significant risks to tape longevity. (4) Current tape based system do not meet automotive environmental specifications. The current technology is to place the tape transport in a vault and protect it from shock, vibration, and temperature extremes.

[0049] Tape cartridges can be large and bulky and take a significant amount of space to store. Tape archival requires that the tape be properly wound and requires annual checkups to guarantee that the tape stays healthy. Tape wears out after repeated use. In situations where a tape must be read into a computer, it is normally limited to one or occasionally two times the original recording rate due to limitations reading a magnetic tape.

[0050] The optical disk based technologies have been around for a long time and have been continuously eroding the traditional analog and tape based formats. New advances in this technology are the up and coming formats, replacing videotape for many applications.

[0051] Optical disks have a number of advantages, they are, for example: (1) Relative to tape, a DVD or CD is extremely rugged. (2) Disks are compact and can hold a huge amount of data. Disks support direct access of the data. It is possible to go directly to a specific track on the disk. (4) In applications where the disk must be read into a computer, the data can be transferred at several times the original transfer rate, dependant only on the drives and the computer capabilities. (5) Disks are not physically touched by the read mechanism so they do not deteriorate after being repeatedly played. (6) Disks, if properly stored, have an estimated archival period of over 100 years. Beyond the recommended environmental constraints, there are no required maintenance procedures required during the archival period.

[0052] The primary disadvantage with disk-based technology is the write process. The process of recording a disk is complex compared to tape and requires that all the steps be completed correctly or the disk cannot be used. An excellent example is the professional audio recording environment. In professional recording applications, recorders using exclusively optical disk based recording technology are not considered reliable enough to capture live (not staged) events. On the other hand, when used in conjunction with a hard disk, the technology is making major in roads into this primarily tape based market.

[0053] One, potentially serious, problem is the possibility that during the write operation the writer mechanism will sustain a shock that will move the read/write head out of position, potentially damaging neighboring tracks before the laser can be shut off. To avoid this the writer must be adequately shock mounted.

[0054] To improve the performance of system 10, the video image date is automatically broken up into fixed sized sections and recorded either while capturing data or during non-capture periods. By using fixed sized sections, possibly one hour in length, each section would take less than 10 minutes to record.

[0055] With continuing reference to FIG. 1, system 10 for recording video images is further illustrated, in accordance with the present invention. Preferably, system 10 includes a video camera or similar video capture device 12, a processor 14, a DVD-R 16, a hard disk 18 (i.e. 10 GB), a processor interface 20, a video encoder 22, a vehicle interface 24 and a shock sensor 26. Preferably, processor 14 is a Pentium IV based computer having 1 GB of DRAM memory 28 or the like. Processor interface 20 is a conventional video capture and display card. In one embodiment of the present invention, two hard disks (one for the OS, the other for video image data) as provided. The operating system can be either Windows 98/ME/2000/NT/XP or Linux or a similar operating system.

[0056] Preferably, a user interface is provided including a colored LCD with touch screen or programmable buttons arranged around the periphery of the display. DVD-R 16 is mounted in a vehicle to minimize shock and vibration and is of the two times or faster configuration. Encoder 22 is a hardware accelerated MPEG-4 encoder or the like and is capable of encoding video at real time rates or faster. The MPEG-4 compression produces data rates that allow at least eight hours on a 4.7 GB disk. This is approximately one quarter of the data rate of MPEG-2 encoded two hour movie. Vehicle interface 24 detects vehicle motion or speed, state of the vehicle transmission, and ignition switch status or position. Signal lines 30 and 32 provide transmission position and ignition switch position, respectively. Shock sensor 26 may be accelerometer based sensor or the like that is in communication with processor 14 for determining whether the vehicle is undergoing shock and vibration.

[0057] In another embodiment of the present invention, system 10 includes a vehicle interface 24 that is capable of receiving vehicle speed, lights on/off, radar data and other relevant information which is routed to systems 10 storage devices such as hard disk 18 and DVD-R 16.

[0058] With continuing reference to FIG. 1, yet another embodiment of the present invention is provided wherein system 10 includes a wireless receiver 34 in communication with processor 14 for receiving audio data from, for example, a wireless microphone 36. Wireless microphone 36 transmits audio data preferably corresponding to the video image data captured by video camera 12 thereby providing a system 10 capable of capturing both the video and audio data and recording the data on system 10 storage devices such as hard disk 18 and DVD-R 16.

[0059] Encoding Standards for a DVD Recorder

[0060] Typically, a DVD is encoded using MPEG-2 encoding. Data rates are variable depending on the amount of motion and can be as high as 1.5 MBytes/Second. Thus, a DVD-5 disk is limited to approximately 2 hours of video.

[0061] If strict compatibility with existing DVD players is relaxed, other compression technologies can be applied, significantly increasing the record time available on a DVD.

[0062] One potential format is MPEG-1, which is used by computers and Video CDs. This format fits up to 80 minutes of video onto a standard CD-R, which translates to over 8 hours of video on a DVD-5 disk. Part of the compression scheme reduces the image to a 352×240 image size, which approximates what VHS tape is specified to deliver. This format may be compatible with some of the newer DVD players that can read VCD disks.

[0063] The current compression system is MPEG-4. This compression system reduces the video data to approximately the same size as an MPEG-1 system but can maintain a 720×480 interlaced image of DVD. Higher amounts of compression are possible by using a smaller image size. MPEG-4 is classified as a “very low bit-rate audio/visual coding”. The current crop of tools are really Beta level tools and are not a great indicator of the final products. Note that MPEG-4 requires a license to use it, the details of the licensing are still being worked out. For more information on MPEG-4 reference is made to web site: http://www.m4if.org/. MPEG-1 and MPEG-4 encoding standards are only compatible with select DVD players.

[0064] In an embodiment of the present invention, a method 50 is provided for recording video images and external of in an automobile. Method 50 includes the steps of storing the video in memory or on a hard disk and then writing the video image data on a DVD at a later time. For the system to be usable, compression of the video is required so that the data can be written quicker than the real time capture of the video image. Method 50 is used in systems having a shock mounted DVD-R that can survive low speed automobile operation. Further, the system is tied into the vehicle electrical networks so that the method includes detecting transmission, engine, and vehicle speed status. The video is captured and immediately encoded into MPEG-4 compressed video set to the same resolution and quality of a VHS recorder running in SLP mode. This level of compression produces files that are approximately a quarter to an eighth the size of standard MPEG-2 commonly used for DVD recording. This will provide between 8 and 16 hours of record time on standard DVD-R. If the vehicle is stationary, the data is directly written onto the DVD-R. If the vehicle is in motion the data is saved for writing at a later time. Data written to the DVD-R is done so in a fashion so that short sections are written at a time, preferably taking between 2 and 5 seconds to complete so that data can be written anytime the vehicle stops moving and can be completed before the vehicle accelerates to an unreasonable speed.

[0065] Referring now to FIG. 2, method 50 for capturing and storing a video image is illustrated in flow chart form, in accordance with the present invention. Method 50 starts at block 52 where the system for acquiring and storing video images is initialized. At block 54, the video image is captured, typically, by a digital video camera. At block 56 a determination is made regarding the status of the vehicle, at block 56. For example, the status of the vehicle may be whether the vehicle transmission is in park, drive, or neutral. If at block 56 it is determined that the vehicle is in park or stationary, then image data that is stored in memory, such as volatile memory, or in non-volatile memory, such as a hard drive, is written to a permanent storage device such as a DVD-R, as represented by block 58. At block 60, while the vehicle is in park data is written or recorded in small blocks onto a DVD-R.

[0066] However, if the determination was made that the vehicle status or vehicle operating state is that the vehicle is not in park or is not stationary, then other determinations regarding the vehicle operating state are made, as represented by block 62. For example, at block 62 a vehicle operating state includes a vehicle speed and as shown, a determination of whether the vehicle has exceeded a vehicle speed threshold is made. If the vehicle has exceeded the speed threshold, then, as represented by block 64, the video image data is written to volatile memory, such as DRAM. If, at block 62, a determination is made that the vehicle speed has not exceeded the vehicle speed threshold, then at block 66, a determination is made as to whether a vehicle shock threshold has been exceeded. If the vehicle shock threshold has been exceeded, as indicated by block 66 and 64, the video image data is written to volatile memory such as DRAM. However, if the vehicle shock threshold has not been exceeded, the video image data is written to non-volatile memory, such as a hard drive, as represented by block 68. At block 70, the method of the present invention is complete after all data has been written to a non-volatile memory such as a DVD-R device.

[0067] As any person skilled in the art of video recording devices will recognize from the previous detailed description and from the figures and claims, modifications and changes can be made to the preferred embodiments of the invention without departing from the scope of this invention defined in the following claims.