A new Mercedes lighting technology will use a spotlight to warn drivers and pedestrians of imminent danger at night.

Mercedes’ spotlight function, which will be included in the luxury carmaker’s Night View Assist Plus pedestrian-detection system, willbecome a standard feature from the summer of 2011.

Mercedes has offered nighttime pedestrian detection since 2009, but the new function goes a step further. It highlights the source of danger in the driver’s immediate field of vision by pointing a spotlight on people in the road. This alerts the driver as well as the pedestrian of imminent danger.

According to research by the German Federal Highway Research Institute, five times as many pedestrians are killed on country roads at night than during the day. Only 20 percent of car journeys take place at night, but 40 percent of all fatal accidents occur during that time.

The new spotlight function is designed to prevent accidents that actually occur, said Thomas Weber, head of group research at Mercedes parent company Daimler.

“With this concept, a Mercedes-Benz fitted with the spotlight function not only protects its occupants, but also makes a significant contribution towards enhancing safety for other road users”, said Weber.

The Night View Assist Plus with new spotlight function combines a variety of technical functions.

Infrared headlamps detect pedestrians at a range of up to 80 meters. A windscreen-mounted camera picks up the image and displays it on the car’s instrument panel. A second camera detects whether the vehicle is being driven at night. An electronic control unit then decides whether a pedestrian should be flashed with the spotlight.

The function operates at speeds above 45 km/hour and can be manually switched on and off.