Reynard Corporation is a key supplier of precision optical components to the Automotive Industry.
Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) systems are being installed in automobiles to enhance vision at night. The camera is mounted on the front bumper of the automobile. The display unit is typically mounted at the center of the dashboard. The driver can easily take a quick look the display then back to the road without increasing the risk of driving. People and animals can be detected at a range of 300meter. There are two basic systems on the market, near-infrared (NIR) and far-infrared (FIR). The FIR system can see at a greater distance and are not bothered by street lights, lights on oncoming cars and is a passive system that is they do not require additional illumination from the headlights.
Heads Up Display (HUD):
Heads up displays are being developed to allow the driver to see information reflected from the front windshield of the automobile while driving. HUD is any transparent display that presents data without requiring users to look away from their usual viewpoints. This information can be digital from the navigation system as well as night vision enhanced viewing from FIR cameras. Although they were initially developed for military aviation, HUDs are now used in commercial aircraft, automobiles, and other applications.
Technology is available to make car windows smart. We are now able to actively change the amount of light passing through the window by either a switch or automatic dimming. The attenuation can be achieved by either absorbing the light or reflecting the light like a mirror.
As the automotive industry moves towards more durable and highly efficient LED lighting, unsuspected consequences have arisen, such as the formation of ice building up on car headlamps. Classic Tungsten, halogen, and xenon based bulbs produced sufficient heat to keep ice from building up on the automotive headlight. However, since LED sources are over 80% efficient, they don't produce enough heat to melt ice, which can degrade driver visibility due to the scattering of the headlamp light through an ice sheet. To eliminate ice build-up, LED headlamps must include a vacuum deposited heated window that acts as a filament heater at the front of the headlamp. A conductive material, such as ITO (indium tin oxide) or thin metal, is deposited either as a pattern or an entire plane at a specific resistance as to generate heat when an electrical path is created.
Other areas that are being investigated by the automotive industry is the enhancement of optical windows on external car sensors, and coatings that enhance the breakdown of organic materials to create self-cleaning windows.