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New solutions for night driving risks

... continued from page 1 -  Accident statistics show that driving at night represents a significant potential danger: in Germany, some 50 per cent of fatal car accidents happen at night, although an average of 75 per cent of all driving is done during the day. This means that the risk of driving at night is twice as high as during the day.

Night Vision cover pedestrians, animals and objects at the side of the road or on the road. They represent the greatest dangers, especially if they are located outside the cone of light shed by the headlights.

A similar situation is to be found in the US: with a 28 per cent share of all driving, 55 per cent of all fatal accidents occur at night. Accident statistics throughout Europe as a whole also justify intensive consideration of the issue of nocturnal driving. According to estimates, approx. 560,000 people are injured in the dark in Europe and some 23,000 are killed.

The reasons are obvious: poor or significantly limited sight conditions on country roads, obstacles or narrow bends which are recognised too late with the 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) - The darkly dressed jogger in the half light, the insufficiently lit cyclist at night: the increased risk to pedestrians poses one of the biggest safety problems in the dark. Here again, the Federal Office for Statistics is clear: over 25,000 accidents per year involving pedestrians and cyclists occur during the night in Germany.

All in all, facts, figures and experience show clearly that solutions are required for night-time driving which reduce the risk of accidents. Naturally, public authorities bear a significant responsibility in terms of making roads safe with improved lighting, markings and signposting. However, the vehicle itself offers considerable potential. Here, technologies must be used which can be specifically adapted in vehicles. The aim of driver assistance systems is to enable the detection of “dangerous” or “endangering” situations as early as possible.

Here, there is no doubt that pedestrians, animals and objects at the side of the road or on the road represent the greatest dangers, especially if they are located outside the cone of light shed by the headlights. They do not only endanger themselves but put other road users equally at risk.

Driver assistance systems make sense when they help detect people, animals and objects at night 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 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 understood. They provide better information for the driver than was previously available and make danger more easily recognisable, but they do not automatically intervene in the situation on the road. Driver assistance systems work rather like a very attentive passenger, facilitating the detection of potentially critical situations for the driver according to the principle of “four eyes see more than two.”

Once driver assistance systems are activated by the driver, they accompany him continuously. Their function is to give the driver more options, thus offering a safety bonus. This bonus can be crucial: due to its long range (up to 300 m), BMW Night Vision provides a time gain of about 5 seconds at 100 km/h as compared to the detectability of objects with high beam only. Ideally, therefore, with the high beam switched on, the driver is informed 5 seconds earlier than previously about a potentially dangerous situation.

BMW initiative - BMW Night Vision and High-Beam Assist are the current high point of an initiative by BMW to make nocturnal driving safer for all road users and to offer the driver increased comfort. Xenon light, which provides significantly increase brilliance and range, was introduced in the year 1991 (Bi-Xenon for low and high beam in 2001). It was followed by the Adaptive Headlight in 2003, whose horizontally swivelling headlamps ensure considerably improved illumination of the road ahead. Xenon light is now available for all models and is even part of the standard equipment of some BMW models, Adaptive Headlight is available as an optional extra for almost all BMW models. The introduction of High-Beam Assist and BMW Night Vision is the logical next step for BMW in creating more safety and comfort in the dark.

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 US, High-Beam Assist was rated most highly among anticipated new technologies in automobiles – based on a description of the function and the anticipated price. More on next  page.

Related Topics:
Two main categories of night view systems, each with its own fortes

Night Vision: Cadillac to Lexus, Honda, BMW & Mercedes-Benz

Honda Legend (Japan) Intelligent Night Vision System

Siemens combines head-up display with Night Vision

BMW's FIR Night Vision system for the 7-Series

Night Vision in the new Mercedes-Benz S-Class

Automotive Lighting equips the new S-Class

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