Motorcycle Night Vision

Motorcycle night vision

Motorcycle night vision

Motorcycle manufacturers have introduced ABS and traction control, dual clutches, variable valve timing and lots of other interesting technology, but one thing we haven't seen yet is night vision. If you're a rider like Darren Haley and you work for FLIR, a company that makes a lot of thermal imaging equipment for the military, police and other folks that need to see in the night, that's not a problem, you just head over to the parts bin and start looking around.

Darren set up his BMW 1150GS for night operation by replacing one of the driving lights with an infrared camera. A GPS unit with a video input, takes the camera's signal and displays it where the rider can easily see it. After 9000 miles on the prototype, he likes it a lot and so do the others who have tested it. He's trying to keep the unit under $2000, which isn't cheap but there may be a few early adopters ready to add something like this to their BMW or Gold Wing or other higher end machine.

On nights where he would be blinded by oncoming lights, he says you can actually just look at the screen until the oncoming traffic has passed. Although this may not look as cool as the night vision gear you see worn by helicopter pilots, it certainly seems to do the job. I like this a lot and I'd love to see it in action.

Link: Wired magazine
Link: FLIR

Infrared camera and GPS screen

Infrared camera and GPS screen


  1. Beale says

    Jeez, like I need more crap strapped to my bike. It already looks like a Tokyo Radio tower.

    I would totally buy one.

  2. says

    I’d love to see a helmet-mounted version of this (probably have to power it from ship’s power on the bike) that projects a HUD onto the inside of the visor. That would probably be even more expensive and less practical, though.


  3. says

    Night vision has been available on Cadillacs and a few other luxo-cars for awhile, I just assumed it would be coming to bikes eventually. Sure would like a HUD, though.

  4. Rich says

    Needs to be an HUD to be safe – in my opinion. There’s a reason the car guys project the image in the windshield.

  5. FREEMAN says

    The nightvision military units that soldiers and pilots strap to their foreheads are right around two thousand dollars a unit. Much less bulky in comparison. I’m not sure if they’re available to just anyone though. Besides, how is this much different than staring down at your phone or stereo or dvd player while driving. Riders need to have their heads up and on the road. Staring down around the gauges is unsafe. Maybe it’d be better off above the gauges by the flyscreen.

  6. says

    So you’re going to give up stereo vision and look through a narrow angle camera on a 5″ screen while in motion… are they insane?

    Spend $150 and get yourself one of the new generation 55 watt HIDs on ebay, and you can turn the night into day.

  7. JC says

    the NV goggles you are talking about have a narrow field of view, and the military goes through quite a bit of training on their use. Definitely not something for the general public on open roads.

    I too agree this should be HUD and not on the “dash”

    It’s technology I don’t feel I need, but many who ride in deer country may feel otherwise.

  8. pink says

    Will it read around corners in the daytime? If it will or might in the future, the left hand side would be the better mount and I would definitely buy one for my K1200GT.

  9. pink says

    By the way … I was in a accident on June 21st and still not back in the saddle. Around the corner view would have prevented it. And a glance at this vs a rear view mirror vs a speedometer should be fine for any decent rider. HUD would be nice but crawl before you walk … give the man a chance.

  10. FREEMAN says

    @ JC:
    Of course they do. The camera sighted in the article is they same way. It’s not like these things have wide angle lenses nor can they replace your own eyes. I don’t think this is a good application for the public in general to begin with. The nv goggles and this device pretty much give you tunnel vision. It’s just what we need: people blaming the manufacturer of this device for their own lack of competence when they get in an accident while using this.

  11. JD says

    Freeman, NV goggles like you posted would be very dangerous. When a cars headlights are approaching your motorcyclce from any distance, the NV goggles will be overpowered by the headlights. Even with military NV, depth perception is HORRIBLE.

    IR camera like the article has would be the way to go.

  12. Kenny says

    Heheh! Kudos Darran!
    That is one cool bit of kit.
    I’d like it on my bike. Would make it look like some kinda super secret agent motorcycle.
    And yes, Freeman your talking about light amplification technology which takes in the visible spectrum as well as IR and some other wavelenghts I think.
    This set up just takes in IR. Hence the name FLIR (Forward looking Infared)

  13. joe says

    I always thought the most appealing aspect of riding a motorcycle was its simplicity, and being able to just relax,unwind and take in the scenery. It seems that now they are being loaded up with so many electronic techno gagets the ride is becoming more like an arcade game.I just toured parts of the US and Canada on a naked bike and was amazed by the number of riders obssesed with GPS waypoints and downloading data . Not to mention blue tooth,ipod,cell phone connections etc etc.
    I’m talking on short rides,not around the world travelers.What happend to adventure and seeing where the ride will take you ? The night vision sounds interesting,but yet, its just another distraction and false sense of security. This is just my ten cents worth,I’m sure many others will disagree

  14. FREEMAN says

    @ JD and Kenny:

    Actually, if you would both care to look at this model here, you’ll see that it has an auromatic brightness cutoff (you’ve been watching too many movies) and utilizes IR. It also runs on a single AA battery for about 60 hours. Cost… 1800 dollars. Same technology.

  15. FREEMAN says

    Alright, I’ll give it to you that yes, it implements light amplification whereas the camera does not, however, but both of these pick up IR. Although one keeps your eyes where they’re supposed to be and the other does not. That’s the point I’m trying to make.

  16. Jim says

    Without a HUD, you’d only be swapping one danger for another, but it is interesting. Would it be worth it? Depends on how much if at all you ride at night. Living in the northern tier, during the shorter days of the year riding is precluded by the snow and ice. Those short days are when I might find myself out after dark.

    Another thought, NV will help avoid certain dangers, such as animal strikes, but it won’t address what might be the biggest issues that face riders at night, the increased potential that other drivers have been drinking or are drunk and debris in or problems with the roadbed.

  17. Matt Fisher says

    So this means that outrunning the cops could be as easy as just shutting off all lights at night and riding along for 5-10 minutes? Good thing that will never happen, right.

  18. Kirill says

    i’d love to have one of these. u go 140 on a highway, the cop starts following you, u just turn off all the lights, that’s it! batmobil style

  19. James Bowman says

    Hud might be an improvement but all the concerns about it being dangerous seem a little misguided, how many people have removed all their guages and do not use their rear view mirrors really? The only difference between this unit and those devices is that you still actually see whats ahead of you while using FLIR. Its another tool and I think its safety advantages far out weigh any negative impact. I drive 20+ miles through deer country to and from work so my greatets fear is bagging a 12 point buck without a licence if you know what I mean. It works for me and I think some people might have their lives saved from using it. Keep up the good work.

  20. Jacquie says

    I am woefully ignorant in a lot of the high tech gear available. This seems like it would work a lot better then hid lights in the fog. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  21. sunny says

    I never saw such dark street and where is the light of the BMW? Bad compare looks like some one want to sell a bad product. If he can included in the helmet, i would say wow.

  22. Grant says

    I don’t like driving at night. This would not change that, but I really like the FLIR picture above. Being able to see past the glare of oncoming lights (esp. high up on SUVs) would be great. It is a chunk of change, and I’m not the target market (luddite, cheapskate, daytime rider). But I see the potential safety advantage. Use wisely, grasshopper.

  23. Gitan says

    I agree with those who think it’s hazardous in it’s actual form and will eventually be fine when it will be set up in an Head-Up Display as an optional additive layer to the vision (on/off by left thumb, for example). Sorry for my poor language… I’m french.

  24. Dave says

    Who’s actually used any HUD system, they are not nearly as easy as you all think, glancing at the display in a similar fashion as checking your mirrors sounds very good.

  25. NightRider says

    FLIR is looking for input from riders about the potential for night vision for motorcycles. Let them know what you think. I want it ASAP. I’ve seen it in cars. I want it for my bike.