The Beginning Of A DIY Vehicle Night Vision System

night vision car

[Stephen] has just shared with us the current progress of his night vision vehicle system, and it’s looking quite promising!

The idea of the project is to provide the driver with a high contrast image of the road, pedestrians and any other obstacles that may not be immediately visible with headlights. It’s actually becoming a feature on many luxury cars including BMW, Audi, GM and Honda. This is what inspired [Stephen] to try making his own.

The current system consists of an infrared camera, two powerful IR light spot lights, and a dashboard LCD screen to view it. It may be considered “not a hack” by some of our more exuberant readers, but [Stephen] does such a great job explaining his future plans for it, which include object recognition using OpenCV, so we felt it was more than worth a share, even at this point.

You see, the idea of vehicle night vision is not to constantly watch a little screen instead of the road — it’s designed to be there when you need it — and to let you know when you need it, [Stephen’s] planning on adding a Raspberry Pi to the mix running OpenCV to detect any anomalies on the road that could be of concern. We shudder at the amount of  training a system like that might need — well, depending on the complexity of this image recognition.

Anyway, stick around after the break to hear [Stephen] explain it himself — it is a long video, but if you want to skip to the action there are clips of it on the road at 1:53 and 26:52.

57 thoughts on “The Beginning Of A DIY Vehicle Night Vision System

  1. >[Stephen’s] planning on adding a Raspberry Pi to the mix running OpenCV to detect any anomalies on the road
    you could use arduino, buzzer and some RNG, it will work just as good as PI.

    1. Not just cop cars. Even if you can’t see it, your eyes will feel the sting from exposure to strong IR just like they would from visible light. Even worse, you don’t realize why your eyes hurt when you can’t see it.
      Also, two of these systems passing each other will blind each other.

      Why could he not just use Russian night-vision goggles like everyone else? Damn marshmallows.

      1. These LED illuminators are pretty much the defacto for most night vision CCTV setups around the world. While it’s true that high output of IR can be dangerous, especially since you lose the blink reflex, these small IR LED setups pose little harm. You’d have to get as close as possible and literally stare for hours to do anything at all.

        Two systems passing each other dont blind each other because they’re projecting a flood light pattern which is dispersed. Even if they were too bright, the camera automatically adjusts to bright light sources and blocks them as mentioned in the video. That’s why the existing solutions from BMW and Mercedes don’t blind each other when they pass another car with the same system.

        Night vision goggles are mentioned briefly in the video. They provide a hugely limited view and aren’t comfortable or overly safe to use for the purpose of this system (an aid primarily)

        1. “These LED illuminators are pretty much the defacto for most very low end night vision CCTV setups around the world.”


          real night visions does not use IR floodlights. Real systems in cars use a FLIR camera, completely different technology. The really low end security world uses IR floods, simply because almost all Security installs are done at the least cost possible. What they use in high end security, like at casinos, is NOT IR floods except for places like the bathrooms and other locations that people would use to steal or do other things, then they simply have all the ceiling lights have IR floods in them so the room lights can not be turned off. For example, the cashiers office has normal cameras and cameras without the IR filter and all of the overhead lights are full of IR lights, so if someone kills the lights they can record who stuffed $30K in chips down their pants.

          1. @fartface

            As I said, defacto in CCTV installs. I didn’t say they’re the standard in vehicle night vision systems.

            As for ‘real systems in car use FLIR’, if you watch the video or do any research on the subject, you’d know that there are active and passive systems available from BMW/Mercedes. Mercedes have special bulbs for their night view assist vehicles which emit high levels of infrared.

            I appreciate you joining the conversation but kindly do some research before you make such claims.

        2. A car has enough space to stuff a large-angle lens in front of the unit. The small viewing angle is an optics problem mostly, since the sets are usually made for carrying on your noggin’. Lenses like this are easily available, since they’re used e.g. for photography. Just grab a lens from an old broken system and you’re set.
          And I’m going to counter the argument of distorted optics (with the lens) with RaspberryPi’s GPU, which is well able to do the correction in real time with minimal effort.
          The only problem then is the night-vision tube’s resolution. But you get what you pay for there.

          1. @AmokCrow I’m not saying you couldn’t do it but it wouldn’t be practical. Most gen 1 / gen 2 NVD , like what you’re suggesting, are already being replaced by low lux cameras which provide a much clearer image even without infrared. The cams also don’t carry the same danger of being damaged by bright light sources like the night vision goggles.

            Your idea is a fun one that I’d enjoy testing, but impractical and a lot of work.

  2. I’m happy to see my project posted here :D Although one correction, I wasn’t inspired by the commercially available systems. I’ve been wanting to do something like this for many many years and then when I started my project, during my research I quickly realized that a number of high end vehicles now have this kind of system. So although I wasn’t inspired by them, I’m certainly reviewing them and trying to learn from what’s already been done and avoid reinventing the wheel.

    I didn’t go into detail in the video about getting the analog cameras fed into Linux/the Pi but that and the object detection stuff will certainly be coming in the next video.

    When you go through the amount of cameras, lights and mounting conditions that I have, you quickly realize it’s quite a hack haha. At least in my opinion :p

  3. I few months ago someone made a welding helmet using a bunch of cheap cameras and used a HDR algorithm. Something like that would be good for night driving as even with dipped lights, it takes your eyes a couple seconds to recover from the glare of oncoming cars’ headlights.

  4. lollll don’t feed the troll. I’m guessing you haven’t seen the video otherwise you’d know how silly your comment about reverse cameras was, since that was specifically covered in the video :p

    It’s 30 minutes because it covers the information you’d need to actually make a working system which isn’t as simple as sticking any random cheapo ccd cam on your car with a monitor.

    The extra IR illumination is for no-light conditions, adding IR to the area to allow the vehicle to either a) operate in a covert manner or b) add IR to improve the general lighting conditions and because we cant get away with projecting more IR light than visible light without blinding drivers. A high selling point of current automobile night vision systems which boast IR light projection to double the length of regular headlights.

    I said I shouldn’t feed the troll but I wanted to at least give you a little push in the right direction on some facts. Poor guy probably can’t even understand what’s going on.

    1. You just don’t get it, kid.

      You’ve taken a CCD, added some IR illumination, and now you’re driving around with a picture of what the camera sees on an LCD screen covering your dash. Good job. You’ve accomplished what any 16 year old can accomplish with about $80 and an eBay or Amazon account.

      A real IR detector does not need IR illumination for low light conditions – In fact, this illumination is doing you a disservice. You do not want to be able to see IR reflected from your IR LED’s – You need to be able to see passive IR emitted by objects in front of you.

      Everything you have done so far is pointless and irrelevant – You have accomplished what Sony accomplished on their “Nightshot” camcorders of the 90’s. Congratulations!!! Now let your equally clueless peers pat you on the back – Does it make you feel good? Good for you, buddy. Good for you.

      Saying “lolll don’t feed the troll” does not make your “project” any less obscure and irrelevant than it already is. You have done nothing novel here, and nothing you do with this project will match even a fraction of what real engineers have accomplished in this area over the past decade. You are WASTING YOUR TIME!!! Get out of your parents basement, get a real job, and DO SOMETHING RELEVANT!

      1. Man did you have a bad day or something?

        You have heard of constructive criticism right? Maybe try having a civil conversation rather than raging up behind your keyboard and providing nothing valuable to the discussion.

          1. No, no no.

            I have been in the EE industry for about 2.5 decades. In the past 5 years there has been this sudden influx of idiot college kids who seem absolutely convinced that they they are the “experts” on some EE subject. At first, we dismissed them as random fools. Now, this odd behavior is the norm. Worse yet, these idiots are all getting together and patting each other on the back for their “accomplishments” (which amount to nothing more than copying something that real EE’s did a decade or two ago), further reinforcing their delusion. Now, we can barely find qualified EE graduates from what used to be quality schools. We have entry level positions which have been open for more than a year, even after countrywide interviews (and we aren’t even a very large company). It’s pathetic. School has become a joke, and none of these kids even realize it. They walk in the door thinking that their pitiful attempt at engineering school is the best thing since sliced bread. These narcissistic little fools are becoming a rampant disease. Humility is a thing of the past; these little morons can start a job and within weeks lose all respect for a 40 year EE professional with achievements that these kids will never match a fraction of. Then, when they are let go for being generally useless and unmotivated (though they feel that they are working hard), they blame everyone but the obvious: Themselves.

            I suppose that maybe it is the result of this “no child left behind” BS or something along those lines… The stupid ones hold everyone back? I don’t know. It’s incredibly frustrating. So yes – I am lashing out at someone I am frustrated with – The idiot, narcissistic, entitled fools that are today’s youth.

          2. And I should add… We CAN find qualified individuals to hire, but none of them are from the USA – We will not hire foreigners – We are sick and tired of giving all of our resources to other countries (and therefore contributing to the demise of this country). So, my frustration is that I can’t find anyone who isn’t on a work VISA who is worth hiring. It is really sad. My company of almost 200 employees will someday shrink to nothing as time goes on and we continue to fail in finding qualified Americans to work for us.

          3. lol your company is shrinking and failing because it’s full of grumpy dinosaurs like you who won’t change their ways to move forward with the world.

            It’s your way or the highway and guess what, your company will fail because of morons like you. Bad luck grandpa.

          4. Negative – We are incredibly successful for our size and are still growing. The problem is that we can’t find entry level hires who can last for more than 6 months without either losing it and quitting (because they are not used to working so hard) or ending up functionally useless even when mentored by a pro. It used to be that you would work under an experienced engineer and be that engineer’s “bitch” for many years – The pay wasn’t that great, and the hours were long, but the end result was you being an expert-in-training and eventually getting the promotion that you had been working towards for so long.

            Now, this young generation wants instant gratification – I can’t tell you how many new hires have quit simply because they were not promoted in the first year or two – And they had no relevant engineering skills coming in the door. They just don’t get it. One is still local, living in his parents basement collecting unemployment, and periodically calling us asking if we will take him back. It’s pathetic. Two entry level hires have been let go in the past year for the most pathetically childish behavior – Texting in meetings with customers, walking around the manufacturing floor with their iPod headphones in, etc – DO NOT BECOME ONE OF THESE MORONS.

            Hard times are coming – For all of us – The EU is well on its way and the USA is not far behind with the socialist psychopaths who are in power now. Only the most elite will be able to find good employment – Come up with a plan to become one of these people, and do not give up. Or live in your parent’s basement. Your choice.

          5. I don’t quite follow how you link this project to difficulties in finding entry-level engineers, but I’ve never worked with anything like this, and I found reading about this guys efforts quite interesting.
            And I haven’t had the problems you describe when hiring newly-minted engineers. True, they’re stuffed full of book knowledge and have little or no practical experience, but those I’ve hired have all been quick learners. Occasionally we’ll get one that isn’t a good fit, but that’s the exception rather than the norm.
            So is it their attitudes that you don’t like? Or their technical ability?

      2. I am not an engineer because I can’t or otherwise refuse to deal with the math involved, and do not wish to leave where I live(Hawaii). With that in mind, many people want something to play around with things and do not care that others have done it decades before. I remember when I was 16 and I was playing around with stuff like this. So yes it’s something a 16 year old or a 12 year old can do. But just leave it for what it is, it’s a cheaper concept that actually works to a certain degree.

  5. There is no more creativity left in the minds of the young anymore.

    All they know how to do is copy what others have already done.

    This is very depressing.

    This is why I can interview 500 EE grads for a design position and not find a single one worth hiring.

    Someone please shoot me. Time to drink.

    1. [NATO]: Bro, you need to chill the fuck out. I quite enjoyed this project. I’m aware of FLIR cameras. Still enjoyed this project. Take the tesla coil out of your ass and stop thinking you’re delivering some divine knowledge.

      [StinkySteve]: Thank you for displaying an excellent project. I’ve always dreamed about creating a similar system, perhaps even with a gimbal.

      1. Yes, yes, pat the child on the back and tell him he’s done a great job… I know how you fools love your warm/fuzzy feelings that you all feel you are entitled to (and that you need in order to live). “Good job, bro”

    2. What is wrong with you? This is not IEEE Xplore, but just some young non-professional kids trying to have a good time. As for the quality of the university students…ever considered maybe your pay is too low to attract anyone with talent? Or even to attract anyone with self-respect?

  6. Mmm i think you’re the one getting confused. Have you watched the video? I clearly say its a standard CCD CCTV camera… I never refer to it as an ‘infrared camera’. The extra IR illumination is used because the camera is very sensitive to IR and because we can pump out lots of it without blinding other drivers.

    You’re thinking of FLIR cameras or Far Infrared. I covered those in my video too. Vehicle night vision systems and military night vision devices don’t ONLY use FIR, they also use NIR (near infrared) like the camera used in my project.

    You’re clearly a dumb dumb who hasn’t bothered to watch the video and know so little that you’re dangerous lol.

    1. The writeup CLEARLY says IR camera… Maybe you should have edited this before you posted your comment? Read… Read… Read… READ

      Judging on your current progress at re-doing what many have done before, you will not come close to designing anything new in the course of this project. Stop wasting your time on things that companies and individuals have been working on for a decade (or more) and design something NOVEL. Nothing you do in this project will ever be novel and/or new – If you are willing to admit that this is a fun project for you to create what others have already created and call it “your own”, then that is fine, but the reason that I’m bashing this project is because HaD (and you) are touting this as something new and exciting – IT IS NEITHER!!!

      There is very little creativity left in the minds of the young – Your video is a perfect example of this. It’s as if you (and people like you) are completely unaware of the world around you and what is going on in it. One of you copies something that has been done a thousand times over, and then a bunch of other like-minded fools pat you on the back. You feel a false sense of accomplishment, and the fools surrounding you consider you to be some sort of “hacker”. You all need to get out of your parents basement, get a real job, learn about the real world, and do something meaningful with your lives.

      1. I feel bad for feeding the troll, but…

        How could he correct a writeup he didn’t write (note the name below the title) and has no control over? You need to learn how to read.

        No major creativity? Maybe not yet. But if many people work on the same topic over and over again at least some of them will do something slightly different, sometimes better, sometimes worse, but more aspects of the problem will be understood.

        He didn’t do anything new? Bullshit. He shown that you can do this kind of system without spending $$$ on R&D like FLIR and car manufacturers do but on one persons budget.

        If people stopped rehashing old ideas progress would mostly stop – big inventions are few and far between, most of the innovation in the world is making slight improvements to already existing solutions. Why discourage amateurs from doing the work?

        Lastly you seem to be confused by the term “engineer”. An engineer is someone who uses mostly pre-existing knowledge to solve technical problems, mixing and matching others work. Their creativity is being used on adopting solutions from other fields, exploiting side effects, modifying the solution to better match the problem at hand.
        People who develop “novel” designs are called researchers or inventors.

        1. I remake existing items all the time. Usually because the commercial systems don’t have a feature I want or cost too much to buy outright . Its fun to make things. I don’t always have to make some new novel product to make something that fits my needs.

  7. I use ANVIS-6 Night Vision Goggles in my daily job, and there is a critical flaw when adapting “True” night vision (compared to an IR sensitive camera) for ground based operations; ie- car.
    You have to manually twist 3 different focus adjustments to make the NVG’s usable, and generally your choices are focus near or far. Not to mention the 40 degree field of view, but multiple optics has bandaged that ailment.
    Oh, and the $12,000 price tag.
    Happy Note: FLIR to the rescue!
    Completely different from Night Vision is thermal vision, which thanks to FLIR will have a 700% price cut in the coming months. The new microbolometer in the FLIR One will be made available to developers. So your car can have sweet thermal vision, not unlike oh an Apache Helicopter :)

    1. All good points and yeah I’m super excited about the new microbolometer from Flir. I’m on their early developer list for the Flir One. They emailed us all a couple days ago asking us to complete a survey to try work out who should get an early unit. Fingers crossed!

    2. I don’t think I’ll glue €1000,- worth of vulnerable equipment on the outside of my windscreen. NIR has the advantage you can keep your camera and screen on the inside of your car. The FLIR ONE has to be attached to an IPhone 5 (or 5S), and FLIR needs to be exposed to ‘the elements’. It won’t work through the windscreen I’m afraid.

      All is not lost though. ‘FLIR assures us that non-Apple versions of the One are in the works, but that the widely varying form factors on Android phones makes the development process more difficult.’

      Which well could mean they make something like Sony’s Cyber-shot QX10, but with a thermal sensor. Stick that on the outside of your car and access it through WiFi.

      I’ve gone as far as I could with NIR a couple of years ago, and it served me well.
      But as FLIR this way becomes affordable, I might give night vision in a car another go.

      1. Yeah the Flir One being iphone5 specific is a bit of a downer but the excitement really is about the Lepton core in general. Low cost (compared to their other cores), low power and very small form factor.

        So although the Flir One wont be ideal for many ‘hackers’, it surely wont be long before we get a standalone version or at least see the Lepton core in a stand alone product outside of the ‘mobile devices’ area.

    3. I use several FLIR-branded cameras in my daily work and only one of them requires any sort of focusing. You need to research optics. Look at the modules used in the decade-old cars with this technology.There is no flaw. Only your misunderstanding.

      1. And if you read his commend again, you will see that he is talking about NIGHT VISION GOGGLES, not IR cameras for cars. You know, the head mounted type military uses? The ones that were mentioned earlier as an alternative?
        For someone who bashes people for not reading and misunderstanding you sure do a lot of both yourself

        1. Uhm…. The “head mounted type the military uses” is based on photomultipliers where an incoming photon knocks a few electrons off a charged plate, those electrons hit another plate knocking off even more, eventually after a few stages the avalanche of electrons strikes a phosphor coated plate making it glow in rough approximation of the original photon. This is why real night vision is always a bit grainy. Unfortunately, what I call nightshot, IR illuminated ‘zero lux’ (which is a misnomer as there is plenty of lux’ making you stick out like a sore thumb to anyone with a imaging sensor that has had its IR filter removed) night vision has hijacked the name night vision, so now when someone says night vision one has to ask ‘IR or real night vision?’ Also, real night vision requires some light to work as it amplifies available light. So if it’s zero lux’, it’s IR illuminated fake night vision. On another note, someone commented somewhere about FLIR, well the microbolometers of thermal vision cameras is A) expensive, and B) doesn’t work too well for avoiding things that are the same temperature as the air around it. Granted, yes, it would give a better awareness for people and such, it won’t help you see that parked car. Finally, every single computer, since the 70s (which has only gotten faster, we are still computing the same binary information) when the top mind of computing took on the task of teaching car to drive in 3 years gave up 15 years later has the same problem….. They cannot conceptualize. They can’t piece together a coherent situation from missing bits of information. They do not look under, through, or around cars. I know little Johnny is going to bolt out from behind that parked car because I saw a flash of his blue t-shirt between the garage and the car in the driveway and know to brake. Those blue pixels would probably be disregarded as noise to a computer. I can see his little feet under the car, a computer was never taught to look there for information much less compute what would again be in the noise for a camera. I can see his head bobbing through the window, the camera probably doesn’t even have a polarizer to look through car windows….. The self driving cars we have today are a gimmick, running copy paste code from stack and GitHub, rushed to market so fast the devs completely overlooked people needing to retrieve their cargo from a taxi and have had them just take off…. because a ‘okay I’m done’ button was too hard, I guess? Oh no, wait, we are expected to use them only in the way the marketing department expects us to use them and there is zero thought put into the failure modes and failure mode mitigations. But hey, let’s all get swept up in the bullcrap and not care dangerous autonomous vehicles with problematic code are on the streets around you and your family! Learning to drive and take it seriously is too hard! ….right? 😒

  8. Ooooh. Another blatant error in this writeup. The statement that FLIR is “becoming a feature on many luxury cars”…

    It HAS BEEN a feature on many cars for more than a decade now.

    Catch up, Corky. I mean HaD.

  9. If he keeps it on the roof he should mount it underneath the bar, that way he can still carry freight. And incidentally, since they use a bunch of LED they don’t have to be round.

    As for the remark that inside behind the windshield it’s protected from theft.. made me chuckle that one. A better idea is to mount it under the bar as I said and hide it and make it look like just some meaningless part of the bars. But mount it in a way that it requires some effort to take it off, basically so that somebody that’s drunk can’t rip it off.

  10. One of the main issues that FLIR fixes is the reflection of the IR light from the spot lights coming back at the camera from fog and other sources. The IR spots and camera will still eventually be blinded or be ineffective at some point in certain conditions. Cool project though.

  11. I get it. After reading through this site, I realize this caters towards the middle/high-school-aged group. I thought you kids were older. I suppose I can’t bash someone so young especially when they’re just trying to make something, regardless of whether or not it’s the right way to do it or if it’s been done before. By the time you get to college you’ll be doing much more advanced things.

    Now to find a site that is for those who wish to boldy go where no man has gone before… As I stated before, I fear that all creativity is gone in this world. Social media makes people stupid (read the latest article on that… Fascinating) and it seems that everyone is on their social media nowadays. Crap, here I am commenting on some obscure website for kids projects….

  12. I like the idea of a vehicle night vision system as I have a very hard time seeing when I drive at night. One of my friends gave me those night vision sunglasses but I still have difficulty. This could be a possible solution for those of us who grope around aimlessly in the dark.

  13. Also, Steve, your comment is exactly what I am talking about – You know less than nothing – Your experience thus far is the equivalent of what the EE’s of 2 decades ago had accomplished by age 12 (Yes – We were reading, learning, designing before our teens, this was the norm back then, these are the people who BUILT the world around you). Even though you have no relevant knowledge and are only able to regurgitate what you have read elsewhere, you still have this undeserved sense of entitlement – This cocky attitude about what you perceive as “knowledge”. You have convinced yourself that becuase you know more than your peers, you must be “smart”. In reality, you are just a less-stupid person in a sea of VERY stupid people.

  14. @NATO What’s with the negativity, dude? If you’re not impressed, suggest something interesting the original maker could do “for bonus points.” 3D spacial mapping of the car’s route/surroundings using combination of camera footage and sonar/lidar maybe.

    You know what the problem with the state of makerdom is these days? Lack of vision breeding apathy. If you’re so great that you have enough of this skill to complain about someone’s night-vision project as boring? Don’t hoard that, spread it around, society gets no richer by squandering its resources; it’s not a zero-sum game. Bitching about the FNG’s is not going to improve their performance, or inform productive discourse in any way.

    Yeah, I’ll bet you’re a real treat to work with. My guess is a bunch of those “useless fools” just don’t like being put down like army recruits 24/7, and they burn out. While I’m not familiar with your operation, my guess is there’s a fair bit of what we now know as emotional abuse holding these young people back. In fact, if there were a mentorship program like you describe in my area that would actually take me, I might be interested in such a thing as a career change – but there’s no way I could work under or even with someone like you.

    Back on topic, I’ve been looking at various ways of doing something similar to this system. My platform does not have a utility rack so I may be putting something on the front of a side mirror mount, but any alternatives to the obnoxiously expensive FLIR sensor are definitely going to get my attention. I may have to review what systems are left in the wrecks that make it to Pick’n’Pull but it’s good to see what results come out of the other DIY attempts.

    1. I agree. nothing wrong with what he did. at least he’s being creative. most kids now days u can’t get em to put down the game controller long enough to teach em how to create. good job kid. keep it coming. I really liked it. I’m gonna copy it to my service truck. I run 24 hr road service for 18 wheelers and being 45 now it gets harder to see at night. this is perfect. all inventors stand on the shoulders of those who come before them. thank god a few kids are still creating. instead of drugs and criminal activities. we should all encourage him add to his project. offer help in any way. not shoot him down to make yourself feel like your so superior. keyboard Rambo.

  15. Stephen, this is a Great video. Thank you ! You were using here a big CCTV camera for it’s capability of adjustment, so could you tell me what were the adjustments you were using it for the video, such as the shutter, the optic zoom and others ?

  16. This is a great idea except I feel like oncoming headlights will pose a problem. Not only that but as more people use these types of systems, more IR spotlights will basically cause the same problem for the camera as headlights do for eyes now. I think thermal is the way to go (passive), but still an awesome idea!

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