For most of us it should be rather obvious that night-time driving is more dangerous than day-time driving. If you don’t believe me you only have to look Australian accident statistics which show that driving at night represents a significant potential danger with some 45 per cent of fatal road accidents occurring at night, even though more than two thirds of all driving is done during the day.
Most of us drivers blame Pedestrians and Cyclists who tend to walk around or ride at night on streets where visibility is poor. Its usually never our fault for not taking any extra steps to insure pedestrians and cyclists are not in the way.. right? Either way, BMW has made the job much easier. An innovative driver assistance system from BMW, which is unfortunately only available as an option in the top-of-the-range 7 Series, will enable drivers to better identify people at night.
The thermal imaging-based technology will in the near future become available in the 5 Series Sedan, 5 Series Touring, 6 Series Coupé, and 6 Series Convertible, opening up this new driver assistance system to an even larger group of Australian drivers.
“Driving in the dark is still one of the most strenuous driving situations and one which tends to bear greater risks,” said Franz Sauter, BMW Group Australia Managing Director.
“Figures from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau show that over 45 per cent of fatal crashes in the last two years occurred at night. BMW Night Vision can help drivers identify dangerous situations on the road at night much earlier in certain situations.
“BMW’s engineers have opted for a thermal imaging approach that places greater focus on detecting people and animals. Objects which radiate heat and which are thus potentially at danger are shown particularly bright and are therefore drawn to the attention of the driver.
“In urban areas lighting is usually sufficient for drivers to recognise dangers in time with the naked eye, but BMW Night Vision really comes into its own out on country roads where pedestrians, cyclists and animals can be detected earlier.
“The system also has advantages on unlit streets or dark courtyards and poorly lit car parks,” he said.
The way the system work is similar to the thermal imaging system available in the S class Mercedes Benz. A thermal imaging camera detects human beings, animals and objects in front of the car before they become visible to the human eye in the headlights. The image generated by the system is transmitted to the central Control Display within the car presenting objects detected with increasing brightness as a function of the heat detected by the camera – and therefore making human beings and animals particularly conspicuous.
The best thing about the system is that the thermal imaging camera covers a range of up to 300 metres (nearly 1,000 feet) ahead of the car. BMW Night Vision therefore offers the customer particular benefits when driving over land, down narrow lanes, through gateways leading into courtyards, and into dark under¬ground garages, significantly enhancing driving safety at night.
Other cool things that come with the system is how the image presented follows the road in a panning process and distant objects can be shown larger as a function of speed (zooming). So the system acts as an early warning system for on coming objects. BMW says after a while, using the BMW Night Vision system will become second nature like looking in the interior mirror.
So apart from the obvious, what are the other features of the new system?
– Reduction to the essential:
Far infra-red technology uses a thermal imaging camera high¬lighting in particular persons, animals and objects radiating higher temperatures. FIR intentionally does not present a detailed image of the respective traffic situation, which would only delay the recognition of a human being within the overall image. In other words, insig¬nificant details are cancelled out and do not distract the driver.
– FIR enables the driver “to look further”:
Covering a range of approximately 300 metres or almost 1,000 feet, FIR “looks” about twice as far as other systems. Hence, the driver is informed earlier on possible hazards – up to 5 seconds earlier at a speed of 100 km/h.
– FIR cannot be “dazzled”:
FIR cannot be dazzled by the headlights of oncoming traffic, by traffic lights, road lights and highly reflective surfaces such as traffic signs. And vehicles with FIR technology do not dazzle each other.
So obviously, this system is far too expensive to find in your local Commodore, nevertheless, its a nice peak into the future of car safety. Features which become available in 7 Series BMWs and S class mercs, tend to find themselves in cars like Holden’s Commodore in 10 or so years.
BMW Night Vision in the 7 Series will sell in Australia for $4,000 AUD.