Thermal imaging and night vision in cars

Car Technology
A thermal imaging night vision system featured in a BMW

Thermal imaging is a technology that has been used by the military and emergency services for many years, whether it’s the police detecting criminals or firefighters seeing through blinding smoke. However, the popularity of thermal imaging is continually growing, becoming more accessible and is now frequently being used for everyday activities. This includes being implemented into a number of new cars.

So how is thermal imaging useful in a car? It is essentially a night vision system that displays an image of the road ahead by picking up infra-red radiation that is invisible to the human eye. The image is displayed in black and white on a screen and hot items, whether it is a living object or a car exhaust will glow white, while colder items such as the night sky will appear black.

Now you might be thinking “Why would I need a thermal imaging camera in my car?” And perhaps it has crossed your mind that it is just another unnecessary extra cost you don’t need when choosing your next car. However, having thermal imaging in your car does have its benefits, especially in terms of safety.

Why is night vision important?

Did you know that, in the US 55% of all fatal accidents occur at night despite only 28% of driving being done at night?  Similarly in Germany, half of fatal car accidents happen at night, although only a quarter of all driving is done at night. This means that the risk of driving at night is twice as high as during the day.

Having a thermal imaging system in a car can significantly help to increase drivers’ and passengers’ safety and decrease the number of fatal and serious accidents.  The night vision allows drivers to detect animals or pedestrians at a range of roughly 300m, which is far greater than you can see with just the car’s headlights.

This is not only improving the safety of drivers and passengers but also any pedestrians that are walking along the road at night time.  The technology also gives the driver more time to react to any sharp corners or obstacles in the road because the device clearly displays the road ahead. Take a look at this video to see just how effective the technology really is.

Some of the biggest well known car manufacturers provide cars with a night vision system, so you will have a choice of vehicles if you decide that a car with this advanced technology is for you.

BMW was the first to incorporate the thermal imaging into their car models, with the BMW 7 Series pioneering the technology. However, Audi and Mercedes-Benz also provide models with night vision systems. What’s more, as thermal imaging has increased in popularity, it has also significantly reduced in cost and therefore is gradually coming within reach of the typical car buyer. Eventually, you can expect to see cheaper car models also starting to implement night vision technology.

This article was written by Ruth Barton on behalf of ISSWWW who provide a wide range of thermal imaging cameras.

1 Comment

  1. neilmilson

    Have you ever compared thermal imaging cameras with laser cameras?

    Reply

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