Since 2009, Mercedes-Benz's luxury class models have included an Active Night View Assist Plus feature that detects pedestrians on the road and highlights them on the display on the instrument cluster using infra-red light projectors. The company has now taken the assistance system a step further with a new spotlight function that specifically directs light on people on or near the road so that both the driver and the pedestrian are alerted to the presence of the approaching vehicle.

When the car's infra-red night vision camera detects people on or near the road, the system automatically flashes a spotlight on them using one of the main headlamps. The camera can detect pedestrians within a range of 80 m (262 ft) with the image displayed on a display in the instrument cluster. While Mercedes says studies have shown that pedestrians are alerted to the approaching vehicle, the spotlight function doesn't dazzle other road users as illumination doesn't occur if other road users happen to be traveling in front of the car or approaching in the opposite direction are located near the pedestrian.

The latest development of the Active Night View Assist Plus system is designed to warn drivers and pedestrians on poorly lit country roads. According to research by he German Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt), five times as many pedestrians are killed on country roads at night than during the day, even though only 20 percent of car journeys take place at night.

The new spotlight function is just the latest in a number of smart headlight systems introduced by Mercedes-Benz, including the high-beam assistant system that uses a dash-mounted camera to automatically adapt headlamp range to the distance of other vehicles. The spotlight function will be included as a standard feature in a luxury class Mercedes model from the summer of 2011.