Night Vision in a Vehicle: Is It Worth It?

By Chantel Wakefield 07/08/2022 8:00am

Night Vision System Of Volkswagen Touareg

Originally introduced by Cadillac in the early-2000s, night vision has become a more common feature among new car manufacturers. Night vision enhances your view of the road while driving in darkness, but is the feature worth having? To decide, you’ll need to understand how the systems work and how they translate to your vehicle.  

What is Night Vision? 

Night vision is a technology that helps you see more clearly in dark lighting conditions, which can work in different ways. Image enhancement technology uses all available light and the lower portion of the infrared spectrum to transform a dark image into a brighter picture. Thermal imaging technology taps into the upper portion of the infrared spectrum to capture heat beams coming off warm subjects. 

Night vision in a vehicle works by using one of these techniques to make the scene ahead clearer after the sun goes down. Many drivers struggle to see well after dark, and night vision is a way to amplify the view of the road. The night vision image may be displayed in the dashboard display, on the infotainment screen, or as a projection on the windshield.

Passive vs. Active Systems

Passive night vision in a car uses thermal imaging technology to light up nearby objects, animals, and people. This distinguishes warm objects from the road, which maintains a lower temperature. The enhanced scene ahead is great for helping you see other people and vehicles more clearly as you drive.

This type of technology may have trouble showing inanimate objects that emit the same lower levels of heat as the road and environment. Additionally, passive systems don’t work as well in warmer climates. If the road and surrounding objects are too hot, the cameras can fail to depict the scene accurately. BMW, Cadillac, Volkswagen, and Audi use passive night vision systems.

Active night vision in a vehicle uses image enhancement technology to project a brighter, well-lit scene. These systems rely on infrared lights in the vehicle’s body to help highlight the path as you drive. They display a higher quality image than ones that use passive night vision technology and can brighten objects farther in the distance.

The drawback is they don’t work well in extreme weather conditions, such as hailstorms or blizzards. For example, it can be difficult for these systems to distinguish the lighter color of the snow from the rest of your surroundings. Toyota, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz use active night vision systems.

Night Vision Options for Cars 

Night vision display in Cadillac Escalade

Some cars have night vision technology built into their front cameras. Mercedes-Benz offers Night View Assist, which uses the native camera to project an image onto the speedometer screen, and is currently available on all models with Intelligent Drive. Toyota and Lexus may also feature Night View for their models. Night vision systems are available in other luxury vehicles from makers including BMW, Bentley, Cadillac, Maybach, and more. 

If these systems aren’t built into your vehicle, you can use an external night vision camera from a secondary manufacturer. Most are designed for a universal fit and can connect to a wide range of cars. Lanmodo currently has options starting at $369. Other aftermarket options range from as low as $99 to over $1,000, depending on the size, specs, and features, with most relatively easy to self-install.

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Pros and Cons of Night Vision in Vehicles: 

Night vision display in Cadillac Escalade

If you routinely have trouble seeing the road clearly when it’s dark outside, choosing a car with night vision may be in your best interest. However, it’s not for everyone.


  • Night vision reduces the likelihood of an accident while driving after sundown. If more drivers adopt vehicles with this technology, the percentage of nighttime accidents could drop significantly.
  • Standard headlights illuminate the road ahead up to approximately 180 feet. Many night vision systems can highlight objects up to 500 feet away. Therefore, drivers can potentially see obstacles farther ahead and avoid collisions.


  • Inclement weather can present a problem for active night vision systems. This feature may provide little to no benefit if you live in a colder climate and regularly drive through snow.  
  • These systems can be expensive to install or are included as a package when purchasing a new car. As the driver, you’ll have to weigh the costs and determine if night vision in a vehicle is worth having.