Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Sorry, there are no cars that match your search

BMW starts a go-go gadget revolution

The pace at which new technologies are finding their way into cars you can buy off the showroom floor never ceases to amaze.

It wasn't that long ago that hi-tech safety devices like a lane-change warning system or night vision, which can pick up objects normally hidden by darkness, were only seen on futuristic cars at international motor shows before they eventually found their way into the most expensive, top-of-the-range luxury models.

But computer-savvy consumers, especially those in the prestige market, are hungry for gadgets.

As part of a revamp across its sedan range, BMW has fitted both these devices to its mid-range Five Series models for the first time; the lane-change warning system as a $1200 option, while the night vision adds $4000 to the price.

The clever lane-change warning system uses a camera fitted near the interior mirror on the windscreen, which looks at the road 50m ahead to keep an eye on painted lane markings.

It then works out the position of the car relative to the markings. Should the car start to wander between lanes, say if the driver is starting to fall asleep or through inattention, it sends a wake-up warning by vibrating the steering wheel.

If the driver is merely changing lanes and has the indicator on, the warning system is deactivated.

BMW says the device begins to work at speeds over 70km/h.

The night vision device is probably more important for Australians because 45 per cent of road fatalities happen at night, even though more than two-thirds of all driving is done during the day.

BMW's system uses infra-red thermal imaging to pick out the body heat of pedestrians, bike riders and animals on a dark road before they become visible to the human eye in the car's headlights.

The system can spot an object up to 300m in front of the car and is not affected by the headlights of an approaching car. An object detected is shown as a black-and-white image on a screen in the middle of the instrument panel.

BMW looked at displaying the image on the windscreen as a heads-up display, but tests showed the combination of real-life and virtual images irritated drivers.