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An optical wireless communication (OWC) system based on a light-emitting-diode (LED) transmitter and a camera receiver has been developed for use in the automotive area. The automotive OWC system will require Mb/s-class data rates and the ability to quickly detect LEDs from an image. The key to achieving this is improvements to the capabilities of the image sensor mounted on the camera receiver. In this paper, we report on a novel OWC system equipped with an optical communication image sensor (OCI), which is newly developed using CMOS technology. To obtain higher transmission rates, the OCI employs a specialized “communication pixel (CPx)” capable of responding promptly to optical intensity variations. Furthermore, a new quick LED detection technique, based on a 1-bit flag image which only reacts to high-intensity objects, is formulated. The communication pixels, ordinary image pixels, and associated circuits (including 1-bit flag image output circuits) are then integrated into the OCI. This paper describes the design, fabrication, and capabilities of the OCI, as well as the development of the LED and image sensor based OWC system, which boasts a 20-Mb/s/pixel data rate without LED detection and a 15-Mb/s/pixel data rate with a 16.6-ms real-time LED detection.