The Night Vision with pedestrian detection system significantly advances the first-gen system found in the last 7-series by adding people-spotting technology that distinguishes between animals and humans. The system was developed by the Swedish firm Autoliv Electronics. It is the latest evolution of technology that Lexus and Mercedes-Benz also have offered since Cadillac brought it to the automotive sector in the 2000 Deville sedan.
Since then, thermal imaging has made way for far- and near-infrared cameras that detect even the smallest changes in temperature. BMW’s passive system uses far-infrared technology to scan for heat, whereas Mercedes’ near-infrared system illuminates the road with projected infrared light.
The BMW system stands apart for its extreme depth, clarity in rain and ability to minimize extraneous information. Despite the added safety such systems offer, Cadillac and Lexus dropped them because few people bought them. But BMW, like Mercedes, still sees a market for it.
A silver dollar-size far-infrared camera in the grille detects the temperature of everything ahead. A computer converts the data into an image that appears on the dashboard’s i-Drive navigation display. Warmer objects like a pedestrian or moose are white, while cooler objects like a parked car are black.
The pedestrian-detection feature kicks in when the car exceeds 25 mph, scanning the road 10 to 100 yards ahead of you. Pedestrians appear with a yellow tint, helping you figure out if that dark shape is a kid on a bike or a dog in the road. The system also monitors the vehicle’s speed and trajectory to warn if the car is on a collision course.
BMW designed the system to account for country and city driving conditions. When driving at slower speeds in the city, where higher pedestrian traffic is expected, the system monitors a smaller area ahead.