New smart car headlight technology under development

Motorists will be able to see through heavy rain and snow making driving safer

 

Driving at night for many motorists is a worrying experience, mix that with heavy rain or snowy conditions, a journey can suddenly become a terrifying and dangerous ordeal.

These difficult driving conditions could become a thing of the past however, thanks to new technology being developed by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

They’e managed to come up with a solution – smart car headlights that allow a driver to see through heavy rain or snowy conditions which normally cuts traffic down to a slow crawl.

Motorists will be able to see through heavy rain and snow making driving safer

New smart car headlight technology under development © Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 

Researchers at the University have been working on the smart new headlight technology since 2012 and have revealed a prototype which has been fitted to the inside of normal headlights on a Ford pick-up.

Scientists have discovered that by switching off small portions of the beam which corresponds to falling water, the light no longer reflects off the droplets thus reducing visibility.

What motorists normally have to do in such conditions is drive with dimmed beams to enable them to see, however these new smart headlights allow the driver to use high beam to light up the road in front of them.

For the first time since starting the project, the new smart device is now small enough to be fitted into a standard vehicle and the scientists have manage to accomplish a 98% improvement in visibility with their latest concept.

They’ve even made it possible for the ‘programmable headlights’ to identify oncoming traffic, so a part of the light is dimmed to stop drivers on the other side of the road being dazzled.

According to statistics, bad weather conditions are one of the main causes of accidents on roads in the UK – the number of accidents jump by 82% when it’s raining.

Professor Kanade from the University and his team think their new smart technology could help to make night driving much safer.

The scientists ‘programmable headlights’ work by exchanging the standard bulb and LEDs in car headlights with a small device like the one found in cinema projectors known as a digital micromirror chip.

They consist of thousands of small mirrors which can be controlled individually by flipping them up and down whilst driving at speed.

Shining a bright light on just one of these chips does mean it’s possible to dim small sections of a car headlight on demand.

The headlights would also have a camera mounted inside and an onboard computer would be able to detect drops of rain as they fall into the driver’s area of vision, anticipating which path they’re going to take.

As a result, the path section of the headlight which would normally be reflected by a drop of rain, or a snowflake as they fall could be switched of for a brief moment – the remaining light would be able to shine through the rain or snow drops onto the road in front.

During tests of the prototype, the smart new headlight technology showed how it can greatly improve visibility in heavy rain or snow on the roads.

 

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