Just like we thought, FLIR wasn't on board with our plan to drive their night-vision BMW through the Nevada desert, but we did get to check out the car's in-dash display.
Our demo was indoors only, though we still got a good idea of how it works. Showgoers passing in front of the BMW's heat-sensing camera appeared in nice detail despite the relatively small difference in their temperature and their surroundings. FLIR rep Jay James said the camera can detect a .05 degree difference in temperatures, which translates into many more shades of gray on the monitor.
The system is tuned to look several yards down the road and so was thrown off by the number of pedestrians within inches of its bumper. But whenever someone walked through its danger zone, the system's display indicated a pedestrian by outliing that person with a yellow rectangle.
The demo BMW had been retrofitted with the system, but new BMWs with the factory-installed version flash a yellow triangle in the head-up display to alert drivers to take action.
Gallery: CES 2009: FLIR demos BMW Pedestrian Detection