Auto Tech

VW's new thermal camera lets you see through the dark

It'll debut first on the new Touareg, so it might be a while before it comes stateside.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to drive relying solely on the thermal camera's image. It's... not as good for that as you might think.

Volkswagen

Even the best headlights in the world can't see everything, which is why Volkswagen has turned to a new trick -- thermal imaging.

Volkswagen will debut its first thermal-camera system on the new Touareg -- which, sadly, the US will not get. That doesn't mean the camera is off the table entirely. If anything, it could make its way to another VW vehicle, whether it's the Arteon or whatever's due for a refresh next. Other automakers have offered night-vision cameras in the past, and still do, but this is a first for the Volkswagen brand.

The system is pretty straightforward. An infrared camera is capable of picking up heat signatures coming from humans and animals in places the headlights may not cover. The system can then warn the driver to the thing hiding in the dark, ideally avoiding a collision.

It works in conjunction with other systems to boost safety. The Touareg's digital gauge cluster will show what the camera "sees," highlighting objects in yellow when they're out of the way, turning to red if the object crosses a certain threshold. When an object crosses into the red zone, the screen will switch to the camera view and alert the driver with an acoustic warning. The autobrake system will prime so that it can provide maximum stopping power if necessary.

If the Touareg is also equipped with VW's LED "matrix" headlights, they can offer a warning flash targeted at the object when the vehicle's speed is above 37 mph. The camera may not be capable of stopping every potential collision, it adds a bit more peace of mind for drivers who often venture into dark areas.