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Transportation Shark

Laser Headlights Promise More Intense, Controllable Beams 376

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-you-better-not-aim-your-car-at-planes dept.
cartechboy writes "Soon, your new car's headlights will be powered by lasers. The 2015 BMW i8 is entering production, and it's the first vehicle to offer laser headlights. These new beams offer a handful of advantages over LED lighting, including greater lighting intensity and extending the beams' reach as far as 600 meters down the road (nearly double the range of LEDs). The beam pattern also can be controlled very precisely. Plus, laser lights consumer about 30 percent less energy than the already-efficient LED lights. Audi is among the short list of other auto manufacturers to promise laser lights in the near future. But the coolest part of all this? When you turn on a set of these new headlights, you'll be able to scream, 'fire the lasers!'"
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Laser Headlights Promise More Intense, Controllable Beams

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  • *slow sarcastic clapping* bravo, sir/madam. bravo.

    • by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:55AM (#46226585) Journal

      just remember to turn them off before cresting a hill, because otherwise you will be fined and/or imprisoned for firing lasers into the sky in an effort to down aircraft.

      • by Barny (103770)

        Except the headlight beams are not actually lasers.

        • by Immerman (2627577) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @12:04PM (#46229119)

          Right, talk about a bad headline. Laser-excited phosphors are a completely different thing than lasers, and that's a really good thing. It's not even a good idea to shine a laser pointer directly into your eyes for any length of time, can you imagine driving past a line of oncoming cars with laser headlights? Your vision would be lucky to survive the week. Not to mention the horrible, horrible dazzle of laser light.

    • by stiggle (649614)

      If you're screaming "Fire the lasers" then you're an idiotic BMW driver. Those clueless morons who have no idea as to the rules of the road, good manners, or the English language. It is "Shoot the lasers". You can only 'fire' a firearm - as it is the method of introducing fire to the propellant to launch the projectile.

      Although saying that - burning down their superbright blinding headlights would be a bonus for other road users, so perhaps "firing the lasers" would be beneficial, along with firing the re

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        I should think "Release the photons" would be more sensible, and shooting implies some active approach to attack something, which as everyone knows, BMW drivers use the bulk of the BMW for (at least I think its that, some people day they're just rubbish at driving properly)

      • by Noxal (816780) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:04AM (#46227615)

        I cry with joy every time I see a BMW's turn signals actually being used. I softly tell myself "Yes! Somebody that ACTUALLY DESERVES such a fine car!"

      • by Stele (9443)

        I find Lexus drivers to be more annoying than BMW drivers, at least around here. I've always wanted to ask one if they had to pay extra for their "Asshole Card" or if they get it free with the car.

    • Gotta get these on the Hyundai Tiburons!

  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:17AM (#46226419)

    I'm down for laser headlights if I can program in the exact speed the cops with laser speed detectors get to see.

  • brighter? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lecoupdejarnac (1742408) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:21AM (#46226427)
    I can't be the only one who thinks that the headlights on certain luxury cars are already annoyingly bright to other drivers. Now we get to be blinded by lasers, great...

    Oh and beta sucks.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      New car headlights are horribly bright, hurt my eyes, and the LED taillights are almost as bad.

    • Re:brighter? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Fusselwurm (1033286) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:30AM (#46226477) Homepage

      My take on it as well.

      There is a lights arms race on the streets. I wonder if we already passed the point of "more is safer".

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        There is a lights arms race on the streets. I wonder if we already passed the point of "more is safer".

        Apropos fire the lasers: I think I'll wait until I'll be able to scream "fire the photon torpedoes".

      • by jythie (914043)
        Oh we past that a long time ago. It has been "I am scared, can I have more then sheep at least?" for a while now.
      • Re:brighter? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:03AM (#46227389) Homepage Journal

        Strongly agree. The problem is (in the UK at least) the limit to legal brightness is set in watts; it needs to be set in lumens.

      • Re:brighter? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @09:41AM (#46227819) Journal

        Well we're already deep into an impact safety arms race...

        I wonder if part of it is that BMW/Merc drivers simply enjoy blinding the poors they drive past, forcing them to slow down and pull to the side to avoid an accident. It must inflate their sense of superiority for their car to inconvenience so many other people.

      • Re:brighter? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by LoRdTAW (99712) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @10:06AM (#46228001)

        This.
        The bright headlamp race has to stop. I drive on the highway daily for a total of a 50 mile(~80km) commute. I cant tell you the number of times I have been blinded by HID's and other overly bright headlamps. My coworker` even tinted the windows on his car...for night driving! Its that bad.

        You want my take? Idiotically bright headlamps are most always found on luxury vehicles. Its a way for the driver to tell everyone on the road "Look at me, I'm rich!" Automakers have no reason to justify such intense light other than entering into a pissing match with each other. You also have the tools who leave the high beams on because, why not they paid for them? And its next to impossible to drive in front of such an asshole with HID's.

        My thought: Fuck all of you luxury car makers and you're sick headlamp arms race. No one needs them - PERIOD.

        • Re:brighter? (Score:4, Informative)

          by Quila (201335) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @11:25AM (#46228755)

          Most bad HID lights are aftermarket junk.

          But this system looks pretty good. It has a camera that looks out for oncoming lights and dims them. If done really well, since it's laser, it could shape the beam to avoid oncoming cars while still lighting up the rest of the road. It would be nice if that were on all cars.

          • by mark_reh (2015546)

            Laser headlights do not direct laser beams onto the road. The laser is used to pump a phosphor that produces white light.

            I have an Audi TT with HID lamps. When supplied by the factory, law requires that they have to respond to oncoming traffic and tilt the beams downward. The control system in my car reacts to bumps in the road, and turns the beams in the direction the car is turning. When starting the car the system tests itself- the headlights dip downward, then tilt inward, then tilt back up.

            If you'r

            • The control system in my car reacts to bumps in the road, and turns the beams in the direction the car is turning.

              This is what car manufacturers claim, but it's nowhere near true. The typical slewing time for the optics looks to be about 0.5 seconds from "standard" to "dipped", and that's way too slow for reacting to bumps/potholes when you're going faster than 30. I regularly get blinded by Audis, BMWs and Volvos with factory HIDs, but Mitsubishi seems to be worst. It could perhaps be that they are just worst at controlling chromatic abberations (since blue light blinds you more).

    • So they decided that it was dangerous and made it illegal to point lasers at air planes yet they think it's some how safe to point it at cars? Seems like someone forgot to sanity check their idea.
      • Re:brighter? (Score:5, Informative)

        by jklovanc (1603149) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:07AM (#46226617)

        Laser pointers are quite different than laser headlights.The key is divergence. A laser pointer is tuned to spread out as little as possible with distance and can therefore be quite powerful at long distances. A headlight, through the use of dispersing phosphors and or lenses is designed to spread out and cover much more area. Illuminating a 1/2 inch circle 600 yards down the road is not much use.The key is that laser light is more controllable. Perhaps directing more light lower down along the road. Laser headlight will use a laser initiator but when the beam comes out of the headlight it will be far from cohesive.

        • Re:brighter? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by tgv (254536) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:41AM (#46226741) Journal

          Yes, indeed, but you've already mentioned the main problem: "quite powerful". If the light is more concentrated, it will also be more concentrated when it hits the eye of the driver in the other direction.

        • Re:brighter? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:05AM (#46227003)

          A headlight, through the use of dispersing phosphors and or lenses is designed to spread out and cover much more area.

          What if you get into an accident that destroys the outer housing of the light (containing the dispersin phosphors and/or the lenses) while leaving the source intact?

          So you've got a "deathray" shooting out from the accident scene wanting to involve more cars, until somebody turns it off...

        • by jrumney (197329)

          Audi's demos at CES also included sensors that detect oncoming vehicles' headlights and actively steer the lasers away from them to avoid dazzling.

          • by jythie (914043)
            Hrm... "just shut up and take this other person`s money".

            I love the sound of that tech, but it strikes me as something which, unless you are altruistic, you mostly hope other people buy since few people place any blame on themselves for accidents caused by their headlights.
          • by bipbop (1144919)
            I'm sure that'll help a lot, given that all pedestrians come equipped with headlights.
          • Do they also detect pedestrians and cyclists?

        • by gtall (79522)

          You mean it will spread out until Billy Joe Bob takes it apart and "improves" it so that it becomes more like a light saber ready to blind you just as soon as you manage to tick Billy Joe Bob off. This cannot end well.

    • Yeah this was definitely my first thought. I'm in a short car..if an suv has bright lights...bad experience.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      I can't be the only one who thinks that the headlights on certain luxury cars are already annoyingly bright to other drivers. Now we get to be blinded by lasers, great...

      Oh and beta sucks.

      This, aren't headlights bright enough, what they need to do is to illuminate more of the road and surrounds (as in the side of the road where people jump out in front of cars from).

      Instead now I'm going to have a BMW prick playing with his lasers as he pootles down the highway either doing 20 more or 20 less than the traffic.

    • Two Strikes (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SuperKendall (25149)

      I can't be the only one who thinks that the headlights on certain luxury cars are already annoyingly bright to other drivers.

      Yes they are. So why not make them more directional so you can get brightness in a more specific area without dispersal... I wonder what kind of light technology could make that possible.

      Oh and beta sucks.

      Can't get a boycott right either I see. The overall quality of writing on Slashdot has improved this week, why not joint the rest of them and increase it further.

      • by swilver (617741)

        ...only to be defeated by a hill in the road.

        Every little bump one of these cars hits already is making me think they're flashing their high beams because the angle of the light that should be pointed at the road is now pointing in my eyes.

        Making it even brighter? W...T...F...

    • My understanding is that the laser is used to pump energy efficiently in a light emitting substance, thus making it a classic point light which expand spherically. They are not using laser directly to light the road which would be pretty much useless (you want a rather wide cone to show the whole road and a bit on the side).

      Nonehteless I am betting such light would be forbbidden in many country in europe where the maximum intensity you can pump is limited by law. And rightfully so, the "normal range light
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Nonehteless I am betting such light would be forbbidden in many country in europe where the maximum intensity you can pump is limited by law.

        BMW being a European company will take those limits into account in their production vehicles, don't worry.

        And rightfully so, the "normal range light" are okish but the "long range" light are already quite blinding, and usually leave me blind fully for 3 to 4 seconds when one is oncomming and forgot to switch back to normal range light.

        That's another matter. It's for a reason it's called "dipped" resp. "blinding" light. Now the problem for some areas, like what I see happening in China all the time, is that everyone likes to drive with blinding lights on at all times. I don't understand why - the result is that no-one can see anything properly. But then, it's not that those Chinese drivers care much about what's going on around them

        • Nonehteless I am betting such light would be forbbidden in many country in europe where the maximum intensity you can pump is limited by law.

          BMW being a European company will take those limits into account in their production vehicles, don't worry.

          The problem is that the legal limit is (in the UK at least) 60 watts. As there lasers will emit many more lumens per watt than the incandescent bulbs in use when the law was written, this doesn't stop them being much too bright.

          • The problem is that the legal limit is (in the UK at least) 60 watts. As there lasers will emit many more lumens per watt than the incandescent bulbs in use when the law was written, this doesn't stop them being much too bright.

            So what you're saying is lawmakers didn't understand the technology they attempted to regulate, and ended up passing regulations that affect the wrong thing. (lumens vs watts) What a shock. Say it isn't so.

      • Nonehteless I am betting such light would be forbbidden in many country in europe where the maximum intensity you can pump is limited by law.

        It might have changed, but I believe that it's not the maximum light output that is limited but the power input.

        So from tungsten filament that the law was written for to the thermodynamic limit gives about a 50x increase in brightness that is allowed.

        Similar games for bicycle lights. The reason it's almost impossible to get a bicycle dynamo that will output more than

    • by gordo3000 (785698)

      absolutely, what I hate the most are the super brights on large SUVs when I'm driving in a smaller (lower down) car. there can be big distances where I'm completely blinded as the light is near my head level.

      It gets even worse in europe where you have cars with RHS and LHS drive on the road (usually, headlights in the US have a slight angle to the right so your left headlight doesn't blind oncoming traffic as much).

      The last thing I want is even brighter headlights. If current ones aren't bright enough for

    • by jythie (914043)
      This looks like a job for a mirrors!

      Seriously, I would love a mod that ads some smart-mirrors to my car and automatically reflects back really bright headlights at other cars. Just as effective as a spotlight but more ironic.
    • by swb (14022)

      Yay, another rich asshole on my tail with even brighter headlights. Awesome.

  • by nullchar (446050) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:27AM (#46226461)

    Audi tested lasers on sharks before BMW:

    http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

  • Warning (Score:5, Funny)

    by JazzXP (770338) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @03:34AM (#46226505) Homepage
    Do not look into headlight with remaining eye.
  • What if that nice bright laser hits a reflective object and then points toward a plane? Just a few articles back I read that will be rewarded with a $10.000 fine.
    http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

    And as others have already pointed out, today's headlights are plenty bright, thank you.

    • What if that nice bright laser hits a reflective object and then points toward a plane?

      That same thing that happens when light from a normal (okay, a bit brighter) headlight points towards a plane.

      I'm not sure whether you're imagining a couple of laser pointers taped to the front of the car projecting two coherent sub-centimetre dots onto the road 600m ahead, but... that's not what's happening. At all.

  • As powerful as lasers may be, a (good) mirror should be enough to perform a "return to sender"...
  • I was already pissed off at people with Xenon headlights, now they get friggin' LASERS ?
  • by epyT-R (613989) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:21AM (#46226661)

    the xenons already burn my retinas.. It's bad enough they don't control the UV+ emissions from these things that well.. LASER light can cause serious damage.

  • by SuperDre (982372) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @04:57AM (#46226787) Homepage
    Yeah, that's nice and all for the driver, but even with today's new headlights, it's a nightmare for oncoming traffic, headlights are so much brighter these days it blinds you as an oncoming driver.. And it's great if you can see for 600meters, but most people don't watch where they're going anyway..
  • by Ivan Stepaniuk (1569563) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @06:03AM (#46226989)

    Blue lasers positioned at the rear of the assembly fire onto a set of mirrors closer to the front. Those mirrors focus the laser energy into a lens filled with yellow phosphorus. The yellow phosphorus, when excited by the blue laser, emits an intense white light.

    There is no coherent laser light coming out from the headlight.

  • Unless the headlight can vaporise oncomming blinded cars before they crash into you, you'll also need a normal laser to take care of them.
  • Install automatically controlled mirrors that will reflect the light back to the source once the intensity reaches a certain lumen value. That way either 1) You'll get the a-hole tail-gating to you dim his lights and back off 2) You'll cause him to get a taste of his own medicine and crash because of being blinded by his own stupid headlights. It could be cobbled together pretty cheaply.

  • The light it burns, it burns!

    Seriously I wonder what the power rating is on those lasers. If replacement lasers are cheap enough I can see a huge application for the maker crowd.
  • funny... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @07:24AM (#46227275) Homepage

    "already efficient LED headlights"

    That are actually inefficient as hell. HID still blows them away for lumens output at power consumed. LED's only advantage is a nearly 60K mile life on a car, but replacement is $450 each instead of the $45.00 each for an HID setup, or $4.00 each for halogen.

  • by Wdi (142463) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:14AM (#46227419)

    With laser lighting, illumination in rain can be dramatically improved, but avoiding to shine the laser onto rain drops.

    http://iq.intel.com/iq/33831801/future-headlight-technology-could-make-rain-disappear

  • Fun, wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Wednesday February 12, 2014 @08:38AM (#46227507) Homepage

    So the focused ones that blind me every time they go over a bump in the road is now going to be even worse?

    Great.

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