13 July 2012

Smart headlights could improve visibility for drivers

A smart headlight system that could help drivers to see more clearly during bad weather conditions has been developed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.

The system is designed to prevent the distracting and sometimes dangerous glare that occurs when headlight beams are reflected by precipitation back toward the driver.

"If you're driving in a thunderstorm, the smart headlights will make it seem like it's a drizzle," said Srinivasa Narasimhan, associate professor of robotics.

The system uses a camera to track the motion of raindrops and snowflakes and then applies a computer algorithm to predict where those particles will be just a few milliseconds later. The light projection system then adjusts to deactivate light beams that would otherwise illuminate the particles in their predicted positions.

"A human eye will not be able to see that flicker of the headlights," Narasimhan said. "And because the precipitation particles aren't being illuminated, the driver won't see the rain or snow either."

In lab tests, the researchers claim the system was able to detect raindrops, predict their movement and adjust a light projector accordingly in 13milliseconds. At low speeds, it is estimated that such a system could eliminate 70 to 80% of visible rain during a heavy storm, while losing only 5 or 6% of the light from the headlamp.

To operate at highway speeds and to work effectively in snow and hail, however, Narasimhan says the system's response time will need to be reduced to just a few milliseconds. The researchers are now looking to engineer a more compact, faster version of the technology which they believe could be installed in a car for road testing in the next few years.

Author
Laura Hopperton

Supporting Information

Websites
http://www.cmu.edu

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