Headlights You Can't See

Will oncoming drivers see DaimlerChrysler's new headlight system?

by Jason Lee

The DaimlerChrysler night vision system makes an invisible headlight beam visible.Jason Lee

The most unusual aspect of a new headlight system being developed at DaimlerChrysler: Oncoming drivers can't see them. Well, sort of.

The system, recently demonstrated on a Jeep Grand Cherokee, combines conventional headlamps with invisible infrared lights. The result is a dramatically clearer picture of the road ahead.

It works like this: Two laser headlamps on the front of the vehicle illuminate the road with infrared light, then a digital camera records the reflected image. The image is projected in black and white to an LCD screen behind the instrument cluster.

The system is similar to the one available on some Cadillac models, which detects heat emitted by objects. The only problem with this system is that similar temperatures blend together, reducing its effectiveness. The DaimlerChrysler system actually sends out infrared light, then measures how it reflects. The end result: It picks up more detail more consistently, say engineers.

The system could significantly reduce the dangers of night driving. It's still being tested, but will eventually be installed in luxury passenger vehicles, trucks, buses, emergency vehicles, and taxis.