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  • IR System May Enable Seeing in the Dark

Sep 2008
BRUSSELS -- Although cars with cameras for rear-view vision and with rotating headlights for peering around curves are available, automobile technology soon may enable the driver to see in the dark as well.

Six European groups — Acreo AB of Kista, Autoliv Development AB of Vargarda and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, all in Sweden; Infineon Technologies SensoNor AS of Horten, Norway; and Umicore NV and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, both in Brussels — have formed “Infrared Imaging Components for Use in Automotive Safety Applications,” or ICU, a strategic research project with the goal of developing an inexpensive infrared night-vision system for automotive use.

Night vision systems currently are available only in high-end automobiles, but ICU aims to make them affordable for inclusion in less expensive models. Image courtesy of BMW AG.

The instrument, which will provide high-contrast images, will be independent of ambient light conditions and could increase road safety by reducing accidents involving pedestrians, cyclists or animals. The device also could have applications in security, surveillance, thermography, retail, process automation and smart buildings.

The night-vision system will consist of several components, but the consortium will focus on the two main cost drivers, the infrared bolometer sensor array and the infrared lens system, because decreasing their cost will make the entire system more affordable.

The recording of a scanned pattern on a photographic medium, utilizing the infrared radiation naturally emitted by the object, as well as infrared receptors, such as photoelectric cells.
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