- The Washington Times - Friday, February 16, 2001

Driving on dark roads with even the brightest headlights doesn't always provide enough illumination to see very far ahead. Brighter lights aren't the answer because they would blind oncoming drivers. But Night Vision, a system that creates images by seeing heat, allows a driver to see five times farther down the road than the most powerful headlights on cars.
At present, the Cadillac DeVille DTS is the only vehicle that offers Night Vision. Cadillac sold about 7,000 DeVilles with the feature last year, double the number forecast. The luxury-car maker predicts it will again sell more than double that amount this year.
Further growth is expected when other car makers adopt the system, said Stuart H. Klapper, director of automotive programs for Raytheon, the company that makes the Night Vision system. Late last year it was announced, General Motors' monster sport utility vehicle, the Hummer, would come equipped with Night Vision. Discussions are also under way between Raytheon and GM to introduce Night Vision on additional models.
An interesting change in the Night Vision system for the Hummer is that the display is not the conventional head-up display type where the image seems to float above your hood in front of the windshield. Raytheon has located the Night Vision display in the Hummer near the rearview mirror, centered to the driver's head position. Like the head-up display, the image in the Hummer will be adjustable for height.
Raytheon is prepared to produce at least 20,000 Night Vision systems this year for the Cadillac DeVille. "We may do more because we don't know where the upward end is," said Mr. Klapper. Raytheon is now producing 60 units per day and is in the process of ramping up to do 80-100 units per day at a Dallas plant.
The 2001 model units have two improvements: a grille has been placed as a guard in front of the infrared camera's window to prevent breakage from stones. (The leading problem with Night Vision was breakage of this window.) Also, with the use of a filter, Raytheon engineers have given the image in the head-up display a softer, more pleasing look.
GM and Raytheon got very good feedback from customers who opted for Night Vision. Mr. Klapper said that focus groups were unanimous in saying they would never buy another car without Night Vision; however, in phone interviews this consensus slid to 65 percent. Most users said they missed the system when driving other cars without the infrared visual aid.
These users said it took anywhere from a week to a month to feel totally comfortable using the system. The marketing surveys also revealed that 3 percent of buyers would have bought the base DeVille, if not for Night Vision's being available only in higher trim levels.
About 13 percent said they would not have purchased a car at this time except for a desire to drive a vehicle with Night Vision. There were few negative comments by those surveyed. But the groups expressed a desire for the system to follow around curves. Mr. Klapper said Raytheon engineers are working on a system to track the steering wheel, or perhaps follow an input from a Global Positioning System satellite signal to steer around curves.
Recently, Autoliv, a European manufacturer of automotive-safety systems, introduced a prototype Night Vision system for a Volvo concept safety car. Autoliv will attempt to market its Night Vision system to carmakers around the world. What's clear is that Night Vision will become fairly commonplace on luxury cars during the next five years.
Mr. Klapper forecasts that 400,000 to 500,000 Night Vision systems will be sold annually by 2006. He said at least one-third of those will be used on non-domestic cars. However, Raytheon cannot manufacture systems overseas for foreign cars. Current U.S. regulations prevent the manufacture of an infrared-scanning device, such as Night Vision, outside the country.
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