Infrared + HUD = Great Night Vision

By Shuldiner, Herb | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 5, 1999 | Go to article overview

Infrared + HUD = Great Night Vision


Shuldiner, Herb, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


I drove the winding roads adjacent to a Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown, N.Y., one recent dark night, keeping one eye on the road and the other on a head-up display projected on the windshield.

HUD displays virtual images from an infrared camera using the same technology that the military employed during the Gulf war in picking out targets at night.

Seconds before I could see people crossing the dark streets through the windshield, I could see their images in the HUD. The HUD images look like black and white negatives. People, because they are hotter than cars or trees, appear whiter in the images. That's because the infrared camera, which was mounted behind the grille of a heavily disguised 2000 Cadillac DeVille, "sees" heat rather than visible images the way conventional cameras do. Cadillac calls this technology Night Vision.

At first, I found it difficult to split my vision between the HUD, and looking at the road in the conventional manner. But it begins to get easier with more use. It helps to turn down the intensity of the HUD, and images you need to see really pop out.

I was astonished at how far down the road I could see pedestrians - more than 1,000 feet in front of the car. What's more, I could see people in the road even when the headlights of an oncoming car completely obliterated them from view in the conventional manner. The IR camera is focused at infinity and starts to go out of focus when images are as close as 25 feet in front of the car.

The important thing is that there is no way you can overdrive the thermal image the way you can your bright headlights. Under varying conditions, you can see pedestrians three to five times sooner with Night Vision than with low-beam headlights. The infrared imaging system offers additional security when parking the car at home or in a dark garage. Night Vision enables you to see potential attackers hiding in dark corners.

The 2000 DeVille that goes on sale this fall will offer the unique Night Vision as an option. The technology was in development for more than 14 years. During that time, Night Vision, or thermal imaging, was transformed from one of the military's most secret technologies into a consumer system that has the potential to save many lives during night driving.

Only 25 percent of driving is at night, but half of all traffic fatalities occur then, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

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