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Cadillac sees in the dark

Night sight: Cadillac is now selling night vision systems in its year 2000 DeVille.

Star Wars see-in-the-dark technology is now on sale in America

28 Jul 1999

CADILLAC is celebrating the 50th birthday of its DeVille model line with the launch of a new car equipped with the world's first night vision system that gives drivers the ability to see further down the road.

It will be the first car on sale anywhere in the world fitted with this technology.

Using infra-red space age technology, used by the Americans in the Gulf War, Cadillac drivers will be able to have advance warning of obstacles hidden by bad weather or not illuminated by their headlights.

According to the car's chief engineer, Mr Ed Zellner, general Motors is : "Putting science to work for the safety of our customers".

The technology, which uses an infra-red sensor behind the centre of the car's grille, can detect people, animals and moving vehicles on the road ahead well before a car's headlights, even on high beam, can illuminate them.

The image of the person, animal or vehicle is projected onto a black and white head-up display on the windscreen in front of the driver.

Objects emitting the most heat are whitest in the display.

The system provides a view down the road that is three to five times greater than what a driver sees with low-beam headlights and three times greater than some high beams.

The technology is not hampered by the glare of oncoming headlights, so it can also improve a driver's vision in adverse conditions such as dense fog.

"Night time driving is much more dangerous than driving in daytime," Mr Zellner said.

He noted that while drivers travel just 28 per cent of their miles at night in the US, that is when 55 per cent of all motor vehicle fatalities occur.

In addition, 62 per cent of pedestrian/motor vehicle deaths occur at night, when poor visibility is a major factor.

Mr Zellner emphasised that in contrast to Gulf War uses, where night vision was the primary source of information for troops in some circumstances, Cadillac's Night Vision remains "secondary" to the headlights in providing drivers with road information.

To ensure its secondary role, the Night Vision display is confined to the lower portion of the windshield, out of the driver's main line of sight.

But the location is ideal since drivers tend to glance down to avoid the glare from oncoming headlights.

Night Vision turns on automatically when the car is started and the Twilight Sentinel system detects low-light conditions.

A driver can choose to turn Night Vision off but cannot activate the system during daylight.

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