Banishing Fear Of Night Driving | MHH International

Night driving technology
No matter where you are in the world, driving at night can be a worry for some. A new survey of motorists has recently conclusively revealed that worries over night blindness and the fear of hitting someone top the list of night-time driving fears. Fortunately, automotive technology continues to move forward and there is now a solution that goes beyond peering into the dark like Mr Magoo or wearing spectacles.

Most car manufacturers have similar science in the pipeline but on this occasion it is Ford who have, for the first time, introduced new technology that is designed to detect pedestrians at night and then automatically apply the brakes if the driver does not respond to initial warnings.

This very latest Pedestrian Detection technology is to be introduced on the next-generation Ford Fiesta in Europe and will of course eventually roll-out on all the company’s vehicles. The soon-to-be released supermini was on display at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

It is known that some drivers find driving at night a stressful experience, especially when driving in towns and cities. Pedestrians, who can be distracted by personal technology and never take their eyes of their mobile screen, can and do step into the road without warning, leaving even the most alert of drivers very little time to avoid a disaster.

Ford say that in daylight or at night, Pedestrian Detection is designed to help identify people already in or about to step into the road in front of the approaching car.

In Europe, the survey showed that 81% of drivers overall admitted to being concerned about driving at night. More than half say poor night vision is a source of stress, and more than a third worry they might be involved in an accident or hit a pedestrian. Statistics from the USA during 2015, showed that three out of every four pedestrian deaths happened at night.

Detection of forward obstacles is of course nothing new. BMW have had an optional similar device on prestige vehicles for a while. The Ford Pedestrian Detection unit processes information from a radar located in the bumper coupled with a windscreen mounted camera. Instantly, the technology compares from a database of pedestrian ‘shapes’ which enables the system to distinguish people from objects such as trees and road signs. The camera delivers more than 30 snapshots every second, say Ford, enabling the system to pick out pedestrians, even in low-light conditions, illuminated only by the headlights. Audible and visual warnings are directed to the driver. As the last resort the vehicle’s system automatically applies the brakes.

BMW offer a similar system called Night Vision. This detects persons and larger animals in the dark even from a great distance – and selectively illuminates them.

The system directs one of the two spotlights onto any unlit persons or larger animals. This very effectively warns drivers and pedestrians of a potentially hazardous situation via an infrared camera films the area in front of the vehicle, recognises any persons and larger animals and marks them accordingly in the thermal image.

BMW Night Vision recognises potential dangers and determines their position and proximity. It takes the speed and steering angle into consideration to establish whether or not something poses a problem and, if there is one, shows a warning symbol in the shape of a person or an animal in the instrument display or in the optional BMW Head-Up Display.

The more dangerous the situation the more effective the controls become. Expect this technology to snowball down through the prestige sector to mainstream motors, as is the case with Ford.

Fear of the dark, or nyctophobia, is a leftover from our cave-dwelling ancestors we learn. Today that same fear affects us behind the wheel. Whilst it is unlikely that the average motorist will be troubled by hungry night-hunting dinosaurs there is always a worry about aimless pedestrians or excited children running into the road. This new technology will go some way at least to ease night driving worries.



Sign up to our newsletter and receive tips about the automotive industry.