DeGould and Sony revolutionising the vehicle inspection industry with automated scanning technology

DeGould supplies a range of automated vehicle inspection systems which are used to assess the exterior condition of a vehicle’s body. DeGould’s complete vehicle quality inspections identify any damage and provide specification checks for OEMs and partners in the finished vehicle logistics chain.

The AI technology we employ detects scratches, dents, paint chips and wheel scuffs, removing the need for manual inspection.

Our two main products are our Auto-scan and Auto-compact. Both use ultra-high-resolution images captured in a controlled lighting environment. AI algorithms then process the images in the cloud and identify any defects. Finally, our dashboard supplies a complete and accurate vehicle condition record in less than a minute for review by our customers.

Today, we have systems installed with leading automotive OEMs and supply chain partners across the world. We are the global leader in automated vehicle inspection for OEMs and continue to develop our technology based on real-world systems.

Tell us about your newest product, the Auto-compact

The DeGould Auto-compact system has a small footprint, ideal for factory locations where space is a premium. It uses a combination of structured, dark and bright field lighting and a range of cameras to capture hundreds of high-definition images in seconds. The DeGould Artificial Intelligence assessment identifies every possible kind of damage to the exterior of the vehicle. The AI also checks the vehicle specification. Images are held in the cloud for easy access and storage, and our customers can review the data on a dashboard.

Auto-compact has two versions: the Auto-compact Drive, which is a system requiring the vehicle to be driven through the machine, and the Auto-compact Track, which is a system that is installed over a conveyor track.

What specific Sony technology does the Auto-compact incorporate?

The Auto-compact Drive and Track use the same camera configuration, comprising Sony Alpha 7RIVs and Sony Alpha 9IIs. Within both versions we use a selection of Sony lenses. The lens chosen depends on the location of the camera within the system.

Ultimately, the image quality that we get is only as good as the amount of light that gets through to the image sensors in the cameras. If we used only machine vision-based technology with smaller sensors and lenses, we wouldn’t be able to identify the tiniest defects. By using Sony’s exclusive 61MP full-frame image sensor housed inside the Alpha 7RIV, the DeGould Auto-compact system can detect and analyse the complete range of possible surface defects.

To maximise the amount of light going to the image sensor, we use the widely acclaimed Sony G Master lens. This lens enables us to increase the pixel count, which is vital for detecting minute defects on a vehicle’s surface.

What technologies do DeGould use to achieve the results your need for your customers?

DeGould is using the latest in cutting-edge imaging technology from Sony, incorporating full-frame image sensors. In simple terms, full-frame sensor-based cameras provide a totally different image to a traditional industrial-based RAW image. The larger surface area of the sensor and back-illuminated structure of the Exmor R and Exmor RS sensors allows for the maximum amount of light to reach the pixels. This technology enables DeGould to obtain the highest quality images and deliver optimal defect detection for even the most demanding customers and environments.

The camera technology we are using is ideal for the OEM use case. Irrespective of the colour of the car that is going through, we can maintain that very high image quality. We can also remotely adjust much more with our cameras than our competitors can.

Our Sony cameras are smart cameras – particularly where their adaptive ISO is concerned. In the OEM environment, it may be necessary to scan a black car, a red car and a white car in quick succession. Sony cameras are advanced enough to ensure that the ISO will float and change, allowing us to retain high image quality. This high quality is not achievable with a machine vision camera.

Consider a tiny paint chip on the surface of a vehicle that an OEM customer wants us to find. A low-resolution camera will result in fewer pixels in the image, and therefore the chances of the AI identifying the damage decrease. With the high-resolution images provided by the Sony cameras, we achieve more pixels and more powerful AI detection. Our customers recognise the benefit when they see the accuracy of the data we provide.

The remote adjustment capability of the Sony mirrorless cameras is also paramount. OEMs are understandably obsessed with uptime, and if anything should go wrong, we receive an immediate alert. The instant alerts allow us to resolve issues remotely.

What is it about the Sony technology that enables you to position DeGould systems as the best available on the market?

The reason Sony cameras are the most suitable option for this application is the image quality we receive. For DeGould, this is a prerequisite for accurate AI detection of damage on a vehicle. Better quality images result in better damage detection for our customers.

Our customer base is growing amongst OEMs and in finished vehicle logistics. They are demanding newer, more advanced inspection processes to find anomalies that the human eye cannot detect. We know that Sony are the world’s number one image sensor and camera manufacturer, and they don’t compromise their standards in technology and quality. For this and many other reasons, we have chosen to partner with them. This partnership allows us to make full use of their latest full-frame Alpha mirrorless cameras. We know this technology sets us apart from the rest of the competition, but more importantly, it adds genuine value to our OEM customers. The value we can add is why we choose Sony, and our customers choose DeGould.

How would you describe DeGould’s relationship with Sony?

Our collaboration extends beyond simply buying cameras. There is a deep strategic and technical partnership with a shared objective of finding solutions for our customers.

For example, Sony’s technical team are helping us determine the optimum lighting specification for our Auto-compact product. Their team in Japan are also working on the SDK software linkages with our systems. This expertise puts us at the leading edge of imaging technology and ensures we deliver the very best products for our customers.

DeGould has a competitive edge in this market due to the development work we’ve done with Sony in recent times. We are building a solution together. And we are solving a problem that we know delivers business value for our automotive customers.

How important is Sony’s SDK in producing the best performance from DeGould’s systems?

In February 2020, Sony launched an SDK which allowed for the integration of their full-frame Alpha cameras into highly industrialised systems like ours. Previously, you had to manually take the picture, whereas now it can all be done electronically, remotely, and controlled from a software GUI.

Sony approached us at that point, and the period of development together on the SDK was approximately one year. Subsequently, Sony has made various iterations of the SDK, taking on board our feedback. They have had joint calls with Tokyo and adjusted it to our specifications.

Sony has continued to invest in both the hardware and software side when some competitors haven’t done so. They are working continuously to improve and change how we can control the cameras. Sony provides our team with technical support, and they have made several firmware and software adjustments to the SDK based on our feedback. That is a process that will continue over the coming years.

The reason this is so important is that the Sony SDK works in harness with our AI. The Sony SDK helps DeGould software grab the images from the camera and transfer them to a separate folder. Our AI algorithms then process these images in the cloud to identify any defects on the surface of vehicles. Although the two processes of image acquisition and applying AI are working independently, our AI can only be so precise because of image acquisition. Therefore our Artificial Intelligence performs at an optimum level, due to the powerful high-resolution images from the Alpha 7RIV.


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