Mercedes-Benz lights up. New spotlight function to “flash” pedestrians

No, not the cops! It's the 2012 model year S-class
You can run but, according to the safety boffins at Mercedes-Benz, you can’t hide. Not from a distance of up to 262 feet (80 metres) in any case. That’s how far a new spotlight function in a re-worked version of the German car maker’s hi-tech Active Night View Assist headlamps scans the immediate forward surroundings and picks out pedestrians at night and/or in poor light conditions by illuminating the area where an infra-red camera detects their presence.
Sounds a bit like big brother. But there is an upside to the new technology, which will become available as a high priced option on the 2012 model year S-class and CL Coupe, says Mercedes-Benz. By providing the headlamp with an additional control unit that allows it to act as a spotlight at speeds above 28mph (45km/h), both the driver and pedestrian are altered to one another’s presence and the potential safety hazard that exists.
Up until now Active Night View Assist, a $1780 option in the US and, for whatever reason, an even pricier €2046 in Europe, has only been able to alert the driver to the presence of a pedestrian by way of a grainy video projected into a monitor within the instrument cluster. The pedestrian, on the other hand, was literally left in the dark.
Not any more, though! The new spotlight is clever enough to function beyond the area of a dipped beam and in Mercedes-Benz’s own words can “decide whether a detected pedestrian is to be flashed”. Depending on the speed the car is travelling, it has been designed to illuminate the pedestrian up to four times. Mercedes-Benz is saying nothing about the tangle it could find itself in with various privacy laws, not least of all in North America, suggesting a pedestrian’s right to a quiet walk at night is outweighed by the potential for improved safety.
Studies tend to back up this argument. According to research by the German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt), five times as many pedestrians are killed on country roads at night than during the day. Another statistic from the BASt points out that only 20 percent of all car journeys take place at night – however this is the time when some 40 percent of fatal accidents occur.
Mercedes-Benz isn’t saying what sort of premium the new discolight spotlight function will command. But for those living in areas with a high percentage of S-class and CL sales and an urge to go walking along a lonely road at night, you’ve been warned . . .

Further images and diagrams after the jump . . .

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