In 2000, General Motors offered a thermal night-vision system in its Cadillac line of vehicles. The system was innovative, but it was also expensive and didn't produce very clear images. Toyota also gave night vision a shot, and even now the automaker continues to offer an in-dash system in some Lexus models. The Lexus system has its fans, but if it's so effective, then why hasn't this technology spread to every vehicle on the road? One theory is that it seems as if the technology just isn't fully ready for automotive applications. Not yet, anyway. As you can imagine, night-vision technology is expensive and if you use inexpensive components, the quality simply won't be there.
Two of Germany's automotive stalwarts, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, have taken a damn-the-torpedoes approach to in-dash night-vision systems. These two auto manufacturers have been offering night-vision systems in vehicles since 2006. Fittingly, the two automakers, which have been competing against each other in the luxury market for the better part of 50 years, offer systems on complete opposite ends of the proverbial spectrum. Each system accomplishes its goal and each has its benefits and costs.
In the next section, we'll learn how these two companies are making use of the latest in night-vision technology.