Autoliv has announced the return of night vision technology in the automotive industry with a forecast of as much as 200K/year by 2014. The company shared its plans at a recent meeting of the International Motor Press Association. While the outlook may seem modest, it reflects a $100M+ opportunity for the industry and the potential for significant life saving in the future. If these expectations are fulfilled, it will represent vindication for a technology first introduced with much fanfare by Cadillac and other makes, but which never caught on.
The consumer appeal of night vision technology is significant. More than half of consumers recently surveyed by Strategy Analytics (http://tinyurl.com/y8jalzh) reported a willingness to pay for the technology, the highest proportion in the survey for any safety technology. Consumers also indicated a willingness to pay more for night vision than nearly any other safety system. Unfortunately, on average, consumers indicated they were only willing to pay $400-$500, well below the cost of current systems. In addition to broad consumer interest, industry data related to traffic fatalities suggests a powerful role for night vision to play in saving lives.
To make its case for night vision, Autoliv cites data from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute which breaks vehicle fatalities into four categories and assesses the percentage of fatalities within those categories that occurred at night. The report shows 30% of “other vehicle in motion” fatalities occurred at night, 70% of pedestrian, 50% of “overturn,” and 60% of “tree.”
Time of day pedestrian fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows most fatalities occurring during the hours of darkness or dusk. And data gathered around the world and reported by Autoliv shows substantial percentages of pedestrian fatalities occurring at night-time and away from intersections – which might provide better lighting.
The greatest challenge for broad acceptance of night vision has been and remains cost. Consumers looking to add the technology to their vehicles are still paying upwards of $2,000 for the privilege. Pricing has not come down much, but the solution itself has changed considerably. Night Vision 2, as Autoliv refers to it, has benefited from enhanced imaging technology (ie. clearer pictures), the integration of other sensor inputs such as pedestrian detection, the wider deployment of larger in-vehicle displays, extended range, and improved sensitivity. Taken together, these improvements have made for a more acceptable and effective – though still expensive – solution.
Autoliv’s solution is based on far infrared camera technology from Flir, not to be confused with near infrared technology supplied by Bosch on the 2010 Mercedes S Class. Autoliv’s Night Vision 2 is able to “see” 50% further down the road and the enhanced images can now be displayed in head-up, driver information, center stack or other navigation displays. Autoliv the increased sensitivity in the system allows it to detect pedestrians in a “static warning” or as they move into the vehicle path. Warnings to the driver are speed dependent, the company says.
Night Vision 2 has been implemented on the 2010 BMW 5 and 7 Series, Rolls Royce Ghost and Audi A8. The next challenge for Autoliv is animal detection. The company cites a wealth of data from multiple sources pointing out the number of fatalities related to animal strikes, which are particularly suited to a night vision solution since they tend to occur at night and away from well lit intersections.
Night Vision 2 has arrived, according to Autoliv. It is now up to OEMs to determine if this technology will find a permanent home in the automotive market on its second visit.
Related Report: Consumers Interested in Advanced Safety Features, but not at Current Price - Schreiner - User Experience Practice
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