Cadillac First Automaker To Offer Night Vision Technology

in News Articles

DETROIT — During the Gulf War, thermal imaging technology helped military forces successfully carry out their missions in the dark of night. Cadillac will be the first automaker to bring the safety benefits of this technology to drivers with the introduction of Night Vision on the 2000 DeVille.

Night Vision can help improve driving safety by enhancing the driver’s ability to detect potentially dangerous situations beyond the range of the headlamps. During nighttime driving, when a disproportionate number of collisions occur, certain situations such as a person changing a tire on the side of the road, or an animal in the roadway, may not be visible with the naked eye until it’s too late.

In addition, Night Vision also can help enhance vehicle occupants’ personal security. For example, as you drive into your driveway, the system can help you see a person hiding in the bushes or out of the range of the headlamps.

While Night Vision is not meant to replace a driver’s view out of the windshield, it will give drivers additional visual information beyond what their eyes are capable of seeing.

Depending on conditions, Night Vision allows drivers to see down the road up to three to five times farther ahead than low-beam headlamps. Night Vision can also help drivers see beyond the headlamp glare from oncoming vehicles.

The same infrared technology, which was developed by Raytheon Systems Co., has been adopted extensively by the military as well as law enforcement, fire departments and marine safety. From the Gulf War to “Patriot Games,” most Americans have probably seen some version of night vision systems in action.

“With Night Vision, Cadillac will bring Desert Storm technology into the family garage,” said Cadillac General Manager John F. Smith. “Night Vision will be an important next step in the evolution of automotive safety. We are proud to continue Cadillac’s long tradition of bringing scientific and technological breakthroughs to our products in order to enhance performance, safety and luxury,” Smith said.

Avoiding What Goes Crash in the Night

While nighttime driving represents only about a quarter of total driving, it accounts for more than half of all traffic fatalities, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

While Night Vision will assist drivers in any geographic location, it may also provide an added benefit in areas with a large deer population. In Michigan alone, there were 68,233 reported deer/vehicle collisions in 1997, according to the Michigan Deer Crash Coalition. The actual number of collisions is even higher, as drivers often report hitting a deer only if there is significant property damage or human injury.

How it Works

Cadillac’s Night Vision system uses thermal imaging, or infrared, technology. This “thermal imaging” device creates pictures based on heat energy emitted by objects in the viewed scene. Everything emits heat to some degree. But humans, animals and moving vehicles are more visible in the image due to their high thermal contrast with the background.

The virtual image that is produced looks something like a black and white photographic negative – hotter objects appear white and cooler objects appear black.

Because the virtual image is projected by a head-up display (HUD) rather than on a flat screen mounted in the car, Cadillac’s Night Vision helps drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. The image, which is projected near the front edge of the hood, is in the driver’s peripheral vision and was designed not to obstruct the view of the road. Drivers can glance at the virtual image without refocusing or removing their eyes from the road.

Night Vision powers up when the key is in the “on” position, when the Twilight Sentinel photo cell indicates that it’s dark out, and if the headlamps are on. Using a switch in the instrument panel, drivers can turn the system on and off, and they also can adjust the image intensity and image vertical position.

During warm-up, the Night Vision logo will be displayed until the sensor is ready. The logo is then replaced with the thermal image of the road ahead.

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