Groping in the Dark: The Past, Present, and Future of Automotive Night Vision

Friday, October 14, 2005 - 1:25pm - 2:25pm
Vincent 570
Jeff Remillard (Ford Motor Company)
Night vision was first introduced into the automotive market 5 years ago on the Cadillac DeVille, and then 2 years later on the Lexus LX 470 sport-utility-vehicle. In spite of initial consumer interest, Cadillac no longer offers this feature, and in general, night-vision has failed to generate significant interest in the marketplace. However, Honda has introduced a night-vision system based on the use of two thermal-cameras that also provides a pedestrian detection function, and BMW and DCX will be launching a night-vision option within the next year on the 7-Series, and S-Class, respectively. Which, if any, of these products will capture the imagination of the driving public, and what night-vision technology/feature package offers the best performance and business case? This talk will compare and contrast various approaches to automotive night vision, and specifically describe the laser-based system developed by Ford, which consists of a laser illuminator and CCD camera that are located in the vehicle interior. In contrast to thermal night vision technologies, it provides easily recognizable images of both pedestrians and inanimate objects and in contrast to the active-night-vision system offered by Lexus, it provides clear imagery even in the presence of oncoming traffic. The talk will also describe a prototype range-gated laser-based night-vision-system that enables viewing through snow, fog, and other obscurants.