Technology is making it easier to see in the dark and the so called "night vision" systems from BMW and other manufacturers have created some positive buzz in the past few years. The camera found in the BMW Night Vision System is developed by FLIR, a company that specializes in thermal imaging. (Disclaimer: FLIR is a proud sponsor of BMWBlog). Innovative infrared technology was made available in a BMW for the first time in 2005, when the BMW 7 Series was the first model to receive this latest gadget.
As of January 2006, the BMW 5 and 6 Series were listing the Night Vision System as an option in their catalogue. The BMW Night Vision System was initially sold for $2,200, but it wasn't available on all the 7 Series models for example.
Many buyers were not and might still not be aware that the Night Vision System can be retrofited in their BMWs. FLIR, used to make commercial nightvision systems for law enforcement, marine, and airborne vehicle, but with their PathfindIR camera they stepped into the automotive world. This is their first infrared nightvision adaptable for any car, although they have demoed the system on BMW vehicles at the CES this year. The Pathfinder allows you to see clearly in total darkness, further than with headlamps alone, through light fog, smoke, and dust. Pathfinder uses the same technology currently used by the U.S. Government for night vision.
Many companies in the U.S are working together with FLIR on providing aftermarket BMW retrofitting. Some of the most respectable and known for their quality work are Nav TV Corporation, based out of Boca Raton FL, and Bimmernav from Austin TX. If you're one of those people that are not tech savvy or good with tools, these companies will install, test and train you on how to use the system. The average price for the BMW Night Vision Thermal Camera Kit is $3,499.
So, if there is no authorized dealer trained by FLIR in your area or if you have experience with car audio/video installation, FLIR provides some great instructions and videos on how to setup, test and troubleshoot the PathfindIR camera.
The camera above gets mounted in a grill, and the AV output hooks into any LCD or the BMW Navigation computer monitor. The threaded slots for easy mounting, standard video output and 12V power all make the PathFindIR an easy to install aftermarket product.
The downloadable files below will give you more detailed instructions and information on the Night Vision System developed by FLIR.
Recently, I have seen many older BMW models with an aftermarket install of the FLIR camera, including an E39 M5 and X5, so it's doable and I certainly find the Night Vision System being more useful that many other expensive BMW options or packages.
P.S If any of you has a Night Vision System retrofit on your bimmer, please leave a comment telling us your opinion.