Understanding The Night Vision System

A key part of being able to diagnose a problem with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) is understanding how the system works. Knowing what is happening inside the system will help you properly diagnose why the system may be failing. This will prevent replacing parts that are not causing the system issue. Let’s take a look at the inner workings of night vision systems.

Night vision systems extend the perception of the driver beyond the reach of the headlamps. There are two common technologies used, thermal imaging and infrared illumination. These two technologies work differently but can produce similar results.

Thermal imaging uses a thermographic camera. The camera detects heat from objects ahead of the vehicle. It can detect small differences in temperature, allowing the camera to create a detailed visual image. This image is typically displayed on the dash, infotainment screen, or on a head-up display. Some vehicles have this camera technology but do not create an image from the detected heat. Instead, this information is fed into an ADAS, such as collision braking. This allows for better object detection and collision avoidance in low light conditions.

Infrared night vision systems use special infrared “flood lamps” to project infrared light into the surrounding area. The projected light is similar to what is used for many household remote controls. The night vision system is typically activated when the headlamps are on and may detect objects a set distance ahead in darkness. Some systems can detect objects nearly 500 feet (152 m) in front of the vehicle. When it is activated, the system displays the image in black and white on a screen, typically found in the instrument panel or console.

Understanding how the system functions can shorten diagnostic times. Knowing what part of the system to test will help prevent installing parts that don’t actually fix the problem.

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