Infrared headlights should make night driving safer

Headlights that use infra-red lasers instead of bulbs could make driving at night a lot safer for motorists, according to DaimlerChrysler. Researchers in Germany have developed an active night vision system that illuminates objects up to 150m ahead of a car without blinding oncoming drivers. The system is being tested on a bus, and the […]

Headlights that use infra-red lasers instead of bulbs could make driving at night a lot safer for motorists, according to DaimlerChrysler.

Researchers in Germany have developed an active night vision system that illuminates objects up to 150m ahead of a car without blinding oncoming drivers. The system is being tested on a bus, and the company hopes to put it into production next year for top of the range cars as well as trucks and emergency vehicles.

The system uses two laser headlights to illuminate the road ahead with infrared light. A video camera records the reflected image which is relayed in black and white to a head-up display in front of the driver’s eyes.

Unlike passive infrared systems that detect the heat given off by an object, the laser headlights can `see’ objects whatever their temperature.

And because infrared radiation is invisible the lasers will not blind oncoming motorists. Nor will glare from oncoming cars spoil the images. Infrared has a narrow frequency band, so optical filters can be used to remove the glare caused by ordinary headlights.

To clean up the images even further, the lasers send out pulses of infrared energy synchronised with the video camera. The camera records all the infrared light reflected from the road, but very little light from oncoming headlights.