The Night Vision Assistant - Infrared Technology for Safer Driving after Dark

(f.l.t.r.) Dipl.-Ing. Manfred Meißner, Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Seekircher, Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Peter M. Knoll

Dr.-Ing. Jürgen Seekircher (Spokesperson)
Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Peter M. Knoll
Dipl.-Ing. Manfred Meißner

DaimlerChrysler AG, Sindelfingen

At twilight and after dark, the risk of having a traffic accident is twice as high as during the day.
Is there any way to ensure sufficiently good on road visibility at twilight or after dark?

Jürgen Seekircher, Peter M. Knoll and Manfred Meißner have found a way to provide drivers with the visibility they need to drive safely even at night. Jürgen Seekircher is responsible for series development of the Night Vision Assistant at DaimlerChrysler in Sindelfingen, Peter M. Knoll is head of development of new driver assistance systems at Robert Bosch GmbH in Leonberg where Manfred Meißner is project manager for a video system platform.

A high-beam headlight that doesn’t blind
Poor visibility often means that drivers misjudge the course of a road or see pedestrians, cyclists, and obstacles on the road too late. High beams can enlarge the field of view, but can rarely be used since it blinds oncoming traffic. These German engineers have developed “electronic high beams” which give drivers better visibility at twilight and after dark without interfering with oncoming road users. The Night Vision Assistant is based on an infrared light system that is invisible to the human eye.

Two infrared high beams illuminate the roadway in front of the vehicle. A specially engineered camera sensitive to the infrared spectral range and mounted on the inside of the front windshield records the illuminated street scene. The recording is projected as a sharp, high-contrast black-and-white image on a display in the instrument panel. A glance at the display – no different that the glance at the speedometer – suffices for drivers to clearly register the traffic situation, even at night. The Night Vision Assistant provides drivers with the same level of visibility they would have when driving with high beams. Even pedestrians wearing dark clothing are clearly visible.

Eyes for the Car
The system developed jointly by DaimlerChrysler and Bosch lets the car see to an extent. The high-resolution video camera in the Night Vision Assistant is the ideal platform for additional driver assistance systems of the future. “Seeing systems” would be able to notice if the car is in danger of veering out of the lane. Road signs such as speed limits can be read by camera and interpreted.

In fall 2005, the Night Vision Assistant was introduced as an option for the Mercedes-Benz S Class model – as the first active night vision system for a series vehicle in Europe. In future, the technology will be used in other vehicles – and provide considerably more safety in nighttime traffic.

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