The jury is in.
Corp.'s Cadillac Motor Car Div., which pioneered the use of night vision with its '00 model DeVille sedan, appears to have a solid hit on its hands - and other automakers are beginning to take notice, suppliers say.
Raytheon Corp., which provides the thermal imaging-based system used on the DeVille, says it now expects to sell 500,000 to 1 million Night Vision systems annually within three or four years.
The supplier also plans to be offering Night Vision systems for the commercial vehicle market, which should be available in the third or fourth quarter of 2001, company executives say. Some insurance providers, Raytheon says, have indicated they'll cut premiums 30% on commercial vehicles equipped with night vision technology.
But competitors to Raytheon are beginning to crop up, as well.Corp. is working with partners to develop its own system that uses both heat sensing (like Raytheon) and infrared illumination for its imaging. One option Visteon is studying is a screen that would pull down from the visor. The Raytheon system projects the image directly onto the windshield, similar to a head-up speedometer display.
Pushing a new spin on an old technology is K.S. Muth Co. Inc. Its night vision system uses light amplification technology - rather than thermal imaging - along with infrared sensors to present an illuminated vision of the road ahead to the driver. Like Raytheon's system, Muth projects the image on the windshield directly in front of the driver.
Muth, which says it expects its system to come in at a price below Raytheon's, also believes its approach has a couple of other advantages. Unlike competitive systems, Muth claims its device will offer some vision enhancement in daylight driving during inclement weather, such as rain or fog. And because the camera Muth employs can be mounted inside the windshield rather than the front of the car, the company says it is better protected against damage from collisions or flying road debris.