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Infrared cameras might make night driving safer

New cameras can detect people and objects long before the naked eye

A German research firm has come up with a new kind of infrared camera that it claims can make driving at night safer.

According to Fraunhofer IMS, thermal radiation sensors in the new camera can detect people and objects long before they become visible to the driver.

The sensor, known as the Infrared Focal Plane Array (IRFPA), can be incorporated into automatic braking systems or special in-car displays that will alert motorists to objects or people looming in the dark.

Here comes the science bit: unlike most existing sensors for long wave infrared spectrum – the wavelength at which objects at body temperature are visible – the new camera doesn’t need to be cooled down to drastically low temperatures (around minus 193 degrees Celsius).

Its special long wave infrared range detector, called a microbolometer, works at room temperature and is suitable for everyday use.

An array of microbolometers produces digital signals directly – sidestepping an intermediate process of analogue conversion – and provides a two-dimensional image.

Scientists say the first tests of the IRFPA have been successful and they hope eventually to make the technology available on the European market.

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine ( 

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