Just a few weeks ago, we declared nightvision one of the most useless options you can get on a car. And from the outside, it totally appears like that's the case. Thing is, you don't understand just how useful nightvision is until you actually use it.

(Full Disclosure: Ironically, I was trying a BMW X5 with Autoliv's nightvision when we decreed that it was useless. That put me in the unique position to say that it isn't useless and I have actual facts to back it up!)

Early nightvision systems were totally useless. They'd only work with the headlights on, and even then all they'd give you is a grainy, crappy image that was pretty much useless. It was more to pretend you had technology on your car than being actually useful. Oh look, I can see that white blob moving towards us oh God we just drove into a field.

The problem is that the tech immediately got the stereotype of being totally useless and it just stayed that way. As tech develops, it frequently gets better. See, there's this thing called the passage of time. As time passes and tech is developed and honed, it gets better.


The same thing happens with literally any technology ever.

Now, instead of displaying just gradients of white that literally mean nothing to the eye, nightvision is able to highlight people and animals in yellow thanks to years of research to actually show you where they are. That's clever.


I had moments driving through Hoboken, NJ where it was rather useful. For those not familiar, Hoboken has narrow streets and drunk frat boys running out into traffic from behind parked cars 24 hours a day. It's basically a nightmare for cars and pedestrian safety. It's also a nightmare to keep the vomit off your shoes when walking home on a Friday night, but that's neither here nor there.

What frequently happens in Hoboken is that you have people who believe they are impervious to the pain that a two ton car can inflict walk right out into traffic like it isn't a big deal. Now, I've never actually hit a pedestrian in the town, but the yellow callout from the nightvision gave a far better warning on the heads up display and resulted in a lot less sudden braking and unnecessary swearing.


No, it doesn't replace headlights and isn't to be relied on, but it's a supplement that is definitely not totally useless.

And there's one scenario where it is actually way more useful than you ever thought. Let me set the scene for you.


You're on a dark backroad late at night. You're going over the speed limit. Suddenly, you have a blip on your radar detector, but your headlights don't pick up anything ahead. Thing is, in the distance, your nightvision sees something.

A police car in the bushes.


That's one of the benefits of these sorts of systems that should make gearheads take pause and stop going "hey, this technology is useless shit." Sometimes, these electronics are helpful in the pursuit of safety and performance driving, the two don't have to be mutually exclusive.

Now, I'm not saying it's perfect. BMW's solution of having the display in the center stack and warnings on the HUD is a bit gimmicky and distracting (which is bad for a technology that you're supposed to look at to get info), but it is much more helpful than you'd think.

So, here's a tip: Instead of just assuming something sucks and then going around telling everyone else it sucks, maybe try it first. You never know. You might be surprised.