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Sony's new HDR camera sensor for self-driving cars eliminates LED flicker

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It's important to remember that the emergence of robots, drones, and self-driving cars goes hand in hand with the development of the smartphone. The sensors embedded in any midrange Android phone today would be the envy of the most advanced roboticist a decade or two ago.

Take this new IMX390 sensor from Sony, for instance (via Engadget). It has 120dB HDR sensitivity (more dB basically means a better signal to noise ratio, which allows for a higher dynamic range), and is sensitive to light down to 0.1 lux (roughly the brightness of a scene illuminated by the full Moon on a clear night). There are obvious advantages for HDR with self-driving cars, which is what this sensor is built for. A clean, uniformly bright image is a lot easier for software to parse.

Does Sony making an HDR camera sensor sound familiar? Oh, that's right, Sony made the IMX378 sensor for the Google Pixel phones, which features Sony's HDR tech.

Sony's particularly proud of the sensor's performance when dealing with the transition from a dimly lit tunnel to dazzling sunlight outside the tunnel, as demonstrated in the video above. The sensor also is able to keep exposure times long enough to eliminate LED flicker, which is apparently an issue for some car vision systems.

Obviously this isn't just an IMX378 with "For cars!" stickers all over it. The IMX390 has a much lower resolution (to keep those pixels big), and it maxes out at 60 fps. But the continued cross-pollination of tech is exciting all the same.