BMW Night Vision and High-Beam Assist Introduced
Driving in the
is still one of the most strenuous driving situations and one which tends
present a greater risk. For years, BMW has developed innovative
that provide relief for drivers at night and contribute to improved road
With the new driver assistance systems, BMW Night Vision and High-Beam
Assist, BMW drivers will be able to drive with improved vision in twilight
at night. Critical situations can potentially be identified earlier than
previously possible and one’s driving style adapted accordingly. In
helping provide increased driving safety, the task of driving is eased when
potentially critical situations are detected early on and redundant
avoided. The driver thus experiences a significant gain in
BMW Night Vision:
Innovative infrared technology for greater security in the dark.
Relief of the driver and active partner
A thermal imaging camera covers an area up to 300 m in front of the
vehicle. The image created on the central monitor displays objects more
brilliantly, the greater the warmth registered by the camera. People
at the edge of the road) and animals (wild animals crossing the road) would
thus be the brightest areas of the image. BMW Night Vision offers
customers particular benefits on routes through the country, along narrow
roads, entrance drives and in dark underground garages, tangibly increasing
safety when driving at night.
the technology by adding other functional features. For example, the image section follows the course of the road (panning); objects in the distance can be enlarged (zoom). BMW Night Vision is activated/deactivated simply by means of a switch next to the light switch. BMW Night Vision is planned to be available in the BMW 7 Series (non-US versions) beginning in the fourth quarter of 2005.
More use of high beam on the road. Less distraction for the driver.
With High-Beam Assist, available beginning in September 2005 in the
Series, 6 Series and 7 Series (non-US versions), a camera sensor
integrated in the inside rear view mirror housing registers lighting
on the road and automatically controls the activation and deactivation of
high beam. The system identifies the headlights and rear lights of
well as the surrounding road lighting. The high beam switches on in the
of vehicles on the road ahead or oncoming traffic, provided the road itself
not sufficiently illuminated. BMW is the first European premium
offer such a system.
A scientific study in the
High-Beam Assist makes a significant contribution to ensuring the high-beam is used more frequently. It also helps prevent other road users from being dazzled if the driver switches to low beam too late or not at all. At the same time, it enables the driver to concentrate more on the task of driving. All in all, High-Beam Assist makes a significant contribution to driving safety.
Xenon light, Adaptive Headlight, High-Beam Assist,
BMW Night Vision:
BMW initiative for safe and relaxed driving at
BMW Night Vision and High-Beam Assist represent the current
to offer the driver increased comfort. Xenon headlights, which provide significantly increase brilliance and range, were introduced in 1991 (Bi-Xenon for low and high beam in 2001). This was followed in 2003 by Adaptive Headlights, whose horizontally swiveling headlamps ensure considerably improved illumination of the road ahead.
BMW driver assistance systems:
Intelligent relief of the driver, without taking away
The function of BMW driver assistance systems is to support the driver
certain situations without taking away his responsibility to safely operate
vehicle. The driver remains the sole “master” of the vehicle.
On one hand,
driver assistance systems can provide the driver with improved information
potential dangers or give him/her an early warning. On the other hand, they
ease the task of driving by taking on simple, repetitive tasks. In general,
more information is a bonus in road traffic: up to 50% of all serious
are caused by the fact that the driver did not have needed information
enough. A linear increase in the quantity of information is not the aim,
however. Important information must be qualitatively processed and made
available at the right moment.
Pedestrians, animals and objects
potentially at risk.
Night driving: three times the risk of an accident as
compared to driving during the day.
Accident statistics show that driving at night represents a
potential danger: in
A similar situation is to be found in the
The reasons are obvious: poor or significantly limited sight
country roads, obstacles or narrow bends that are recognized too late with
low beam, inappropriate judgement of speed or distance due to a
lack of orientation for the eye, driving into the “black hole” of the headlights of oncoming traffic, possibly exacerbated by wet, reflecting road surfaces –
just to mention a few examples.
People (and animals) are particularly at risk in the
The darkly dressed jogger in twilight, the insufficiently lit cyclist
night: the increased risk to pedestrians poses one of the biggest safety
in the dark. Here again, the German Federal Office for Statistics is clear: over
25,000 accidents per year involving pedestrians and cyclists occur during
the night in
Aim: early detection of people and objects in the dark
the cone of light projected by the headlights.
All in all, facts, figures and experience show clearly that solutions
required for nighttime driving that reduce the risk of accidents.
public authorities bear a significant responsibility in terms of making
safer with improved lighting, markings and signposting. However, the
offers considerable potential. Here, technologies must be used that can be specifically adapted in vehicles. The aim of driver assistance systems is to enable the detection of potentially dangerous situations as early as possible.
Here, there is no doubt that pedestrians, animals and objects at the
or on the road represent the greatest potential dangers, especially if they are located outside the cone of light projected by the headlights. They can not only endanger themselves but put other road users at risk.
Driver assistance systems for increasing safety at night make sense
they help detect people, animals and objects and provide an early warning system. BMW Night Vision and High-Beam Assist have particularly great potential effectiveness for this very function.
Driver assistance systems do not offer total
Driver assistance systems such as High-Beam Assist and
BMW Night Vision cannot offer total safety. To promise this would be
misleading, and it is important that their potential is properly
They provide better information for the driver than was previously
and make potentially dangerous situations more easily recognizable, but
not automatically intervene in the situation on the road. Driver assistance
systems work rather like a very attentive passenger, facilitating the
of potentially critical situations for the driver according to the
“four eyes see more than two.”
Once driver assistance systems are activated by the driver, they
him continuously. Their function is to give the driver more information and
options, and an earlier warning of potential risk. This can be crucial: due
its long range (up to 300 m), BMW Night Vision provides a time gain
of about 5 seconds at 100 km/h (62mph) as compared to the detectability of
objects with high beam only. Ideally, therefore, with the high beam
on, the driver can be informed 5 seconds earlier about a potentially
The awareness of additional danger can provide relief for the driver
a strenuous nocturnal trip, thus allowing a more comfortable, relaxed drive.
Xenon light, Adaptive Headlight, High-Beam Assist,
BMW Night Vision:
BMW initiative for safe and relaxed driving at night.
BMW Night Vision and High-Beam
Assist are the current
of the road ahead. Xenon headlights
now available for all models and are standard equipment on some BMW models,
while Adaptive Headlights are available as an optional extra for most BMW
models and as standard equipment on some. The introduction of High-Beam
and BMW Night Vision is the logical next step for BMW in creating
more safety and comfort in the dark.
More safety is desired by customers
Every responsible motorist is interested in optimum safety. This is
BMW Night Vision is anything but a mere technical exercise: a study in the US revealed that over 80 per cent of interviewees wanted a night vision
system, when asked to name desired automobile features to increase safety.
In another study, also conducted in the
A comparison of night vision technologies:
Far Infrared (FIR) vs. Near Infrared (NIR).
Night vision: two differing technologies on the
Night vision devices for military and civilian use have existed for
time. There are currently two different technologies: Near Infrared (NIR)
Far Infrared (FIR). NIR and FIR are initially differentiated by the technological process by which they register the area in front of the vehicle and convert
this into image information for the driver:
• Near Infrared (NIR) beams an infrared light source into the
front of the vehicle. The light is reflected by objects, the road and human
beings and photographed by an infrared camera. This is then converted to an image in the processor and displayed on a screen.
• With Far Infrared (FIR), a thermal imaging camera directly
registers the heat radiated by objects and human beings, making a separate
light source from the vehicle superfluous. This information is then
a processor into an image and displayed on the screen.
FIR better suited for use in automobiles.
The two technologies are differentiated mainly in the method by which
visualize information from the surroundings on the screen. With
BMW Night Vision, BMW opted to develop a system based on FIR
technology. After intensive system comparisons and direct comparative
the choice fell to FIR since this system is better able to provide the
of early detection of human beings and objects in the dark. FIR
the most important information and ignores distracting
Advantages for FIR based on technological
BMW engineers first recognized advantages based on the technological
principles of the system. For example, the range of night vision systems
based on FIR surpasses other technologies by up to 200 per cent, with NIR
essentially accounting only for the area already covered by a conventional
beam. Due to the strong heat radiation from people (pedestrians, cyclists)
animals (wild animals crossing the road) as compared to other objects
(buildings, traffic, road signs etc), the thermal image reflects the
potentially more dangerous situations on the road – i.e., exactly
to which BMW Night Vision aims to draw the driver’s attention. At the
interface to the driver, the symbolic depiction of the thermal image on the
monitor screen places further emphasis on potentially critical
BMW is the first European premium manufacturer to use and
develop FIR technology for increased customer
BMW has further developed FIR technology for use in automobiles,
it to include several other useful functions. The camera has a
larger angle of exposure (36 degrees) than that of other systems (typically
– 18 degrees). In addition, the image section shown on the monitor
course of the road and steering angle (panning). Furthermore, a digital
can be activated for higher road speeds, showing objects which are further
in enlarged form on the screen. Finally, the iDrive menu can be used to
brightness, contrast and screen display according to the individual
of the driver. BMW Night Vision is activated/deactivated by means of a
next to the light switch.
Scientific research also gives a clear
In the areas of utilization and technology, the two systems, NIR and
can be further differentiated. This system comparison is based on a study
the Transportation Research Institute of the University of Michigan (UMTRI)
published in December 2004. UMTRI is one of the leading research
in the field of transportion and road traffic, and its partners include
automobile manufacturers and numerous well-known names from the supply
industry. UMTRI conducted a scientific comparison of FIR and NIR night
systems, focusing on the detection of human beings using this
• FIR has fewer components.
Due to the fact that there is no internal light source as with NIR, FIR systems have fewer components.
• FIR allows you to see “farther”:
FIR systems have a range of some 300 m; the average with NIR is 150 m.
Thus, the distances at which people were detected in the test were significantly larger with FIR. On average, detection distances in the UMTRI study were 165 m with FIR and 59 m with NIR.
• FIR isn’t “dazzled”:
NIR systems are sensitive to the headlamps of oncoming traffic, traffic lights, street lamps and powerfully reflecting surfaces such as traffic signs. Since NIR systems use light waves as the basis for their image information, especially-light-intensive objects appear very brightly on the screen, or they flash or appear as a diffuse shining. This also applies to the light source of the NIR system when detected by another NIR system. Thus, NIR systems are susceptible to being dazzled by external light sources.
contrast, FIR systems only display objects that radiate heat – the
object, the more intense the illumination. Generally speaking,
people and animals are shown as strikingly different from the rest of the traffic environment.
• FIR: reduction to the essentials.
NIR systems provide a complete depiction of the given road situation. However, this delays the detection of a person within the image as
a whole. NIR may be better suited for some purposes than FIR, but not for use in vehicles when identifying people. Due to the symbolic depiction used by FIR systems (comparable to a photographic negative), information provided by NIR systems is initially processed more quickly by some users, since it tends to be more familiar at first. However, after a period of familiarization, this is reversed and the information processing speed in detecting people and animals is faster with FIR systems.
Night vision is not a replacement for watching the
Night vision systems assist the driver by providing information. They
not replace the requirement of watching the road. Similarly, such systems
not comprehensive, nor do they eliminate the need to be aware of risks and
dangers on the road. Weather conditions also influence the quality of image
display – both with FIR and NIR. Rain drops and fog filter infrared
light, for example, and this can lead to a deterioration of image quality.
When using night vision systems, one should always be aware of a
defined purpose. UMTRI argues as follows: “In view of traffic
conditions and night accidents, night vision systems should particularly increase the
recognizability of people, cyclists and
BMW Night Vision.
Thermal imaging to detect people, animals and objects.
BMW Night Vision based on FIR technology is a receptive system which
uses the incoming heat radiation from human beings, animals and objects as
source of image data. The system is integrated in the existing electronic
environment of the vehicle on a modular basis. Only two additional hardware
components are required: the camera and the control unit. The 8.8 inch
required for display is installed in conjunction with the Professional
BMW Night Vision Far Infrared
The thermal imaging camera is installed in the left part of the front
bumper in its own housing. It is protected by impact-resistant glass and a
grid. The camera cleaner jet is activated along with the windscreen washer
system and ensures a clear view at all times; at outside temperatures below
degrees C (+41 F), the glass cover is heated.
The camera operates with a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels
and has a range of some 300 m; the image sensor registers heat radiated
people and objects within a wave band of 8 – 14 m. At speeds
below 80 km/h (50 mph), the large horizontal aperture angle of the camera
degrees means that not only the road can be identified but also the areas
the side of the road and surroundings (children, wild
BMW Night Vision control unit.
The control unit receives data from the camera and converts it into an
image on the central monitor. Depending on outside conditions, the image is
electronically brightened or darkened.
At medium road speeds, the zone displayed on the monitor covers an
of 24 degrees; this zone moves as the road turns – up to 6 degrees to the left or right. This so-called panning movement is controlled by the parameter “steering angle of wheels”. At higher road speeds, a digital zoom can be activated which displays objects at a greater distance in 1.5 : 1 enlargement.
Display on the on-board monitor.
BMW Night Vision provides the driver with the night vision image
as a contrasting black-and-white display on the central monitor in the
panel. Use of the Head-Up Display was considered by BMW. However,
tests showed that the superimposition of real and virtual image information could cause irritation and is therefore not optimum.
Basic operation using a switch, fine control with
BMW Night Vision is switched on and off using a switch next to
the light switch. An iDrive menu is used to activate panning/zoom. The
has the option to adjust brightness and contrast and to select between full
screen and split screen monitor displays.
Planned to be available in the 7 Series as of fourth
BMW Night Vision is planned to be available beginning in the
fourth quarter of 2005 in the BMW 7 Series (non-US versions).
Extension to other BMW model series is planned. BMW Night Vision will
also be available for retrofit as an Original BMW Accessory (not in the
Please note: there is no timetable at this time for introduction of
technology to the
BMW Night Vision is the beginning of a
As with the introduction of other innovations, there will be several
stages of development with BMW Night Vision. The system is a significant
improvement in the identification of critical situations when driving at
However, it cannot provide comprehensive safety at night and does not
the driver of his responsibility for safe operation of the vehicle.
A research focus for the future lies in the fact that Night Vision
might be able to identify critical situations within the general traffic
and warn the driver via diverse on-board display functions. Initial steps towards so-called object detection have already been taken, however system performance is not yet in line with the demands made of such a system by BMW and its customers. The error rate of object recognition is still too high, and this could potentially frustrate the driver. Only when such systems do justice to BMW requirements would they be put into series production.
Automated activation of the high beam.
In practice, the high beam is rarely used and not always
off in time.
Unfortunately, the high beam is very rarely used in practice, even
such use would be more frequently possible and even desirable. A scientific
Other studies have shown that when drivers switch on the high beam,
they often fail to deactivate it in time, thus unnecessarily dazzling other
road users. Such situations can also be avoided by means of intelligent
More frequent use of the high beam, no dazzling of other
users, relief for the driver.
High-Beam Assist makes it possible to use the high beam more
and correctly. At the same time it provides relief for the driver and thus
increases comfort. All in all, High-Beam Assist makes a significant
contribution to driving safety.
High-Beam Assist optimizes the use of the high beam precisely for
driving situations in which the high beam is permitted and desirable.
This increases the duration of high beam activation. It also ensures that the high beam is deactivated in time, so as not to dazzle other road users. For the driver, High-Beam Assist means a tangible increase in comfort: the sensor-controlled automation of High-Beam Assist relieves him
almost completely of the need to activate and deactivate the high beam.
A sensor at the front of the inside rear view mirror controls the
automatic activation and deactivation of the high beam. High-Beam Assist
ensures that the high beam is switched on whenever the surrounding traffic
allows and requires it. The sensor consists of a camera which is attached
the inside rear view mirror housing. The image is fed into an electronic
The high beam is automatically deactivated in the following
• oncoming traffic (including motorcycles).
Here, the system recognizes the high or low beam of vehicles.
• vehicles driving ahead.
The red rear lights of vehicles are recognized.
• with sufficient street lighting, i.e., in built-up
• At low speeds, when driving with the high beam does not provide any
increase in safety.
The system also analyses the brightness and color of the light source
as to imitate human use of the high beam as closely as possible. It is
so that road users within a range of up to approximately 1,000 m are
Familiar use without additional
High-Beam Assist does not require additional switches or operating
elements. It is activated by means of the light control unit by putting the
knob on automatic (same position as for the activation of the light sensor for automatic control of the low beam). In addition, the direction indicator lever must be pushed towards high beam, if currently on low beam. A control lamp in the instrument panel indicates that High-Beam Assist is activated.
High-Beam Assist as a driver assistance
manual intervention possible at all
High-Beam Assist is a driver assistance system that – like BMW Night Vision – does not relieve
the driver of his responsibility to operate the vehicle safely, but
him with support. High-Beam Assist can be manually overridden at any time
the usual functions of “Permanent low beam” or “Permanent
high beam”. Also, the
headlamp flasher can be used normally at all times.
High-Beam Assist cannot replace a personal decision regarding the use
the high beam. Nor can there be a guarantee that all situations will be
correctly judged by the system. Unfavorable weather conditions such as
fog can limit the function of High-Beam Assist. Other road users with poor
illumination – such as pedestrians, cyclists, riders, etc., cannot be
detected by the system. In poorly lit towns, for example, the high beam
be manually deactivated.
BMW as the first premium manufacturer in
BMW will be the first premium manufacturer in
6 Series and 7 Series (non-US versions) as an option.
Please note: there is no timetable at this time for introduction of
technology to the