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Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-04-145
Date: December 2005

Enhanced Night Visibility Series, Volume XIV: Phase III—Study 2: Comparison of Near Infrared, Far Infrared, and Halogen Headlamps on Object Detection in Nighttime Rain

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CHAPTER 1—INTRODUCTION

During previous phases of the Enhanced Night Visibility (ENV) project, far infrared (FIR) systems and near infrared (NIR) systems showed promise for pedestrian detection capabilities (ENV Volumes III and XIII). FIR technology, which presents images based on the temperature differential between an object and its background, is available on production vehicles. The images presented by FIR do not contain many details; for example, FIR images do not show headlamp light, pavement markings, signs, or raised retroreflective pavement markers (RRPMs). Despite this lack of detail, FIR allows for the early detection of pedestrians, cyclists, or animals (i.e., objects generating heat) on the roadway (see ENV Volumes III and XIII). NIR systems, which present features of the forward road scene in a more picture-like quality, are a more recent addition to automotive vision enhancement systems (VESs). These systems use IR emitters to act as IR headlamps when viewed through the IR camera and its associated display.

This study in the ENV project extends the investigation of NIR and FIR vision enhancement systems to determine how well they assist drivers in pedestrian and object detection in a heavy rain condition. In this study, the VESs tested include two NIR systems, one FIR system, and one halogen (i.e., tungsten-halogen) system (HLB). Each system was tested on a sport utility vehicle (SUV). The HLB served as a baseline condition, allowing a comparison between readily available technologies and new VES alternatives.

The IR systems tested in this phase of the research were provided by automotive manufacturers and IR vision system suppliers. The manufacturers and suppliers provided the contractor with preinstalled prototype systems as well as descriptive information about the specific implementations tested such as IR emitter types or field of view (FOV). Details beyond those provided were not recorded to protect proprietary system characteristics. The headlamp systems tested were production headlamps purchased by the contractor.

 

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