It's a gadget worthy of 007 himself. This March, BMW will make its Night Vision technology available for the 5 Series Sedan, 5 Series Sports Wagon and the 6 Series Coupe and Convertible.

Infrared sensors use thermal imaging to "see" animals, people and objects in the vehicle's path before the driver can see them in the headlights. The images are transmitted onto the screen on the central instrument panel customarily inhabited by navigation information. The more heat the device senses, the brighter it shows up on the screen, making humans and animals easiest to see.

Check out the full press release after the jump.

BMW Night Vision Becomes Available in the U.S.

Munich. BMW Night Vision, the innovative driver assistance system, will be available from March 2006 in the 5 Series Sedan, 5 Series Sports Wagon as well as the 6 Series Coupe and Convertible.

Infra-red technology incorporating a thermal imaging camera for extra safety in the dark. Driver support and active partner protection in one.
BMW Night Vision provides a new dimension of optical perception when driving at night. A thermal imaging camera detects human beings, animals and objects in front of the car before they become visible to the human eye in the headlights. The image generated by the system is transmitted to the central Control Display within the car presenting objects detected with increasing brightness as a function of the heat detected by the camera – and therefore making human beings and animals particularly conspicuous.

The thermal imaging camera covers a range of up to 300 meters or almost 1,000 feet ahead of the car. BMW Night Vision offers the customer particular benefits when driving over land, down narrow lanes, through gateways leading into courtyards, and into dark underground garages, significantly enhancing driving safety at night.

BMW opts for Far Infra-Red technology (FIR). Thermal imaging camera for enhanced detection of human beings and animals.

Conducting comparative studies and carefully observing independent scientific examinations, BMW's engineers have opted in favor of innovative far infra-red technology (FIR), most efficient in detecting people, animals and objects at night. FIR offers the following benefits:

* Reduction to the essential:
Far infra-red technology uses a thermal imaging camera highlighting in particular persons, animals and objects irradiating higher temperatures. FIR intentionally does not present a detailed image of the respective traffic situation, which would only delay the recognition of a human being within the overall image. In other words, insignificant details are cancelled out and do not distract the driver.

* FIR enables the driver "to look further":
Covering a range of approximately 300 meters or almost 1,000 feet, FIR "looks" about twice as far as other systems. Hence, the driver is informed earlier on possible hazards – indeed, up to 5 seconds earlier at a speed of 100 km/h (62 mph).

* FIR cannot be "dazzled":
FIR cannot be dazzled by the headlights of oncoming traffic, by traffic lights, road lights and highly reflective surfaces such as traffic signs. And vehicles with FIR technology do not dazzle each other.

Over and above the advantages offered by the FIR principle from the start, BMW has enhanced this technology by adding further functions: The image presented follows the road in a panning process and distant objects can be shown larger as a function of speed (zooming).

Convenient use of BMW Night Vision like looking in the interior mirror.
BMW Night Vision presents a high-contrast black-and-white night image to the driver on the Control Display in the middle of the instrument panel. Benefiting from FIR technology, the driver only has to briefly check out the Display in order to recognize a hazard. So using BMW Night Vision is comparable to looking into the interior mirror in the car.

Examining the new system, BMW also considered the option to present the image in the driver's primary field of vision, for example in the Head-Up Display or in the instrument cluster, but this option was rejected for ergonomic reasons. Tests have shown that the combination of real-life and virtual images irritates the driver and is not the best solution.

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