Written by James Hamel
Video by Eric Peterson
I recently had the privilege of being able to perform a truly in-depth road test of a 2016 BMW X5 courtesy of Autoliv Technology, the automotive safety giant which invented the Nightvision technology found in various BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Rolls Royce models with Maybach, Bentley and the Cadillac CT6 the latest with the technology. With just the Nightvision system, owners are shown on a center dash mounted screen or a screen between the dials ahead of you if there are any heat emitting creatures in your path on even the darkest roads.
In our experience the Nightvision picked up everything from drunk College kids laying on the ground ahead of us, all the way down to a few deer, a snake slithering across the road, all manner of dogs and cats with even a squirrel at one point detected in a tree. It also had no problem at all detecting our most dependable stand in when we could not locate a deer willing to cooperate near Orange County, California. This daring individual was our experienced canine road tester—a dog we rescued from Boxer Rescue Los Angeles with the name Roxy but sadly passed away shortly after her performance as “dog crossing road in hot dog costume on Halloween” in the video attached to this article.
As you can imagine, Roxy was a dog with incredible patience who loved to be in front of the camera. Try to keep in mind that when I adopted her, this dog was terrified of everything and everyone. Then by the end of her life she never flinched one inch walking in front of the speeding BMW X5, a statement I wish as her human owner could say for myself due to one or two unintentional flinching and one outright fall on my rear which was down to nothing more than my ability to create unintentional physical comedy. The 2016 BMW X5’s brakes are ridiculously strong and in the video you will notice our speed limit on the admittedly dark road was kept at the speed limit but without those spotlight beams I wonder how many drivers’ would have seen the trick or treaters in time.
This was the reason why we had to do so many takes, in all of which it was always Roxy who hit her mark perfectly to best demonstrate the most exciting feature of our test BMW X5 which is as of yet unavailable here until Autoliv gets finished working with the NHTSA to alter a decades old law against spotlights on personal vehicles.
Autoliv Nightvision with Spotlight Beam Technology
But wait, the X5 has spotlights? That shine on pedestrians and animals from the front foglights which can tilt and swivel to easily point out the location of a heat entity in front of the driver? The system also somehow manages to always know when a pedestrian or animal is a threat to you in the car as the spotlight illuminates when it senses someone who “could” walk in front of the car, others are shown in the vehicle head up display in yellow with those just standing or sitting show up in a brighter white outline.
Now, you may think this is impossible but for some reason humans never notice the spotlight being shone on them down by their feet (no one in our time ever acted like they noticed it) but on the contrary for animals it is those very spotlights which snap animals like deer out of that “caught in the headlights” fear, startles them and makes them bolt out of the street. It worked with every animal wild and domesticated that we came across. Except Roxy, who knew I was there as her human shield. But not every creature is so lucky.
Did you know that in North America there are 200 human deaths and 1.1 million annual deer related accidents on our roads each year? That doesn’t even count the number of pedestrians hit and killed which according to statistics happens 69% of the time during night driving. Having the Autoliv Nightvision system could save so many human and animal lives each year that our hope is one day this system with the spotlight beam technology will be a standard feature on all new cars. Autoliv works tirelessly to bring the cost of their technology down and that is probably why they are such a hugely successful Fortune 500 firm with 18 tech development centers and 20 crash test facilities.
On a dark road, it’s easy to miss some things like a pedestrian in a black sweatsuit, a lost dog running down the road, a skunk slowly crossing the road or a family of deer just standing in the road ahead of you 200 yards away. Check out the video to see how clearly and quickly the driver of this 2016 BMW X5 is notified when a pedestrian and dog walk into the path of the speeding SUV. And remember, be safe out there this Halloween!
(Dedicated to the Memory of Roxy Hamel)