Infra-red cameras may boost safety

A German research firm has created infra-red cameras 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 much before they become visible to the driver in headlights.

The sensor, known as the Infra-red 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.

Unlike most existing sensors for long wave infra-red spectrum - the wavelength at which objects at body temperature are visible - the new camera does not need to be cooled down to drastically low temperatures.

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

An array of micorbolometers 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.

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