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Smart headlights could stop glare danger

Drivers can see clear benefits of programmable headlights.

A recent development from Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute has solved the problem of oncoming drivers being blinded by main beam headlights.

Road testing smart headlights

Road testing smart headlights Image: Carnegie Mellon University

With more than half of all vehicle crashes and deaths occurring at night, despite less traffic on the roads, researchers have sought improvements to headlight function.

This has led to development of Multi-LED systems with darkening LEDs to reduce glare and swivelling headlights but, according to Srinivasa Narasimhan, Associate Professor of Robotics at CMU: "Most of these are one-off systems, with different headlights required for different specialized tasks."

The Carnegie Mellon researchers have moved away from standard headlights or LED clusters, instead using a digital light-processing projector which can divide the light into a million tiny beams, each of which can be independently controlled by an onboard computer.

A camera senses objects such as oncoming cars, falling rain or cyclists.  The light beams are either dimmed (for oncoming traffic) or brightened to highlight objects.  Overall illumination is barely changed, while glare is prevented.

The time lag between camera detection and the adjustment to the illumination (called system latency) is between 1 and 2.5 milliseconds.

Currently the system is being road tested on vehicle bonnets.  It is hoped that the research team will soon be able to install a prototype within the headlight compartment of a small pick-up truck.

Tags: And finally, automotive industry, N America

Published 9th October, 2014

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