Back in 2000, Cadillac introduced what a cursory internet search indicates was the first commercially available automotive thermal imaging night vision system in the Deville. Built by the aviation and military electronics giant Raytheon, the system used a passive image sensor installed in the grille that delivered moderate-resolution gray-scale video to a heads-up display inside the windshield, with warmer objects appearing brighter than the surroundings.
While the system offered the ability to see pedestrians, cars, and wildlife far beyond the range of the headlights, the $2,000-plus price tag for the night vision option and its limited usefulness in urban and suburban environments limited its popularity, and the system was discontinued after 2004 (with the Deville following a year later).
Hopes were high that it would be fitted to other high end GM vehicles, but since it was (quite sensibly) fitted with an interlock that prevented it from being used without the lights on, the true killer app for the technology – blasting across an arrow-straight highway in the desert at 2 AM at 130 miles an hour with the car blacked out – wasn’t ever realized, and today you can find complete used systems on eBay for a few hundred bucks.
Left: Testing the system before installation. Right: the camera mounted in the bumper.
Redditor WestonP did just that, and installed the setup in his C6 Corvette, with the camera mounted in the bumper. The video shown above is the side by side comparison of the thermal image and visible-light GoPro footage, which shows how useful the system can be at detecting “objects of interest” (other cars, pedestrians, cops, etc.) at very long distances, before they’re even faintly visible in the high beams.
The installed camera, with a GoPro next to it for the video shown above.
“Its view angle is a bit narrow, so it’s really meant for looking straight ahead… basically the same path as your headlights, but much further distance,” he explains. “Works pretty good for seeing beyond the headlights, spotting wildlife, pedestrians, and sneaky cops hiding in the dark.”
For anyone interested in increased driving safety at night (or blasting across an arrow-straight highway in the desert at 2 AM at 130 miles an hour with the car blacked out) this seems like a pretty easy and relatively inexpensive mod. What do you think – since the 2015 C7 will be equipped with an optional forward-facing camera, and already has a high resolution color heads up display, is this a technology that’s time has finally come?