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Transportation

Smart Headlights Adjust To Aid Drivers In Difficult Conditions 125

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute are developing smart headlights that not only trace a car's movement around bends, but are programmable to assist a driver in a wide range of driving conditions. The research team, at the institute's Illumination and Imaging Laboratory, is looking into designing headlights which do not highlight raindrops and snowflakes in bad weather, instead passing light around the individual drops and improving visibility. Its near-future design would also be able to avoid glare even when the high beam is in use, detecting up-coming vehicles and disabling the range of light that is directed at it. They also hope to incorporate GPS data to adjust the direction of the headlights according to the lane that a driver is occupying, illuminating it more brightly compared to surrounding lanes. The technology is supported by a looped system which will constantly read, assess and react to driving conditions. The prototype also features a built-in camera to capture visual data before transferring it to a computer processor installed in the vehicle, where it can be analyzed.
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Smart Headlights Adjust To Aid Drivers In Difficult Conditions

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  • Do not want (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coinreturn ( 617535 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @02:24PM (#49563169)
    Way too complicated a solution for the problem. "Sorry, sir your headlight is not working. That'll be $2700 to fix it.
    • Yeah, ridiculously expensive, extremely over-complicated, and in the end of dubious value.

      We're supposed to believe this will "[pass] light around the individual drops and improving visibility"?

      My initial read of TFS was that it sounded like so much marketing crap.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        We're supposed to believe this will "[pass] light around the individual drops and improving visibility"?

        This was mentioned a few years ago, for example: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-s... [phys.org]

        I presume this must be the same people. But I agree, I'd rather pay $5 for a replacement headlight bulb than $5,000.

        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          Your ludditeism is showing. There isn't a "bulb" in any of these. Would you rather have a CRT where a single failure renders the entire system 100% useless, or a LCD, where a pixel failure is usually not noticeable.
      • And just in time for autonomous vehicles that don't even need visible light..
    • Way too complicated a solution for the problem. "Sorry, sir your headlight is not working. That'll be $2700 to fix it.

      If you can afford a car with this technology (assuming its actually possible and not only marketing gibberish), you can afford to have it fixed. And if for some reason you can't, just have normal headlights put in.

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      Back in the day, Tucker prototyped a car that had a headlight that aimed with the steering. Citroen had headlights on the DS that would steer with the car, to help the driver look around corners. More recently and most commonly in the seventies, many cars had cornering lamps that illuminated a bright flood to the side when the turn signal indicator was partially pulled or was fully engaged; my buddy's '72 Dodge Monaco has them and my '78 Chrysler Cordoba has them.

      Sounds to me like they need to just des
      • Re:Do not want (Score:4, Insightful)

        by lgw ( 121541 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @03:35PM (#49563851) Journal

        My current car (a 12 Infiniti) has the steering headligts - great in the parking lot, really makes a different, not sure how much it matters at speed. It's currently a luxury feature, but with time and technology it won't be.

        I could certainly see these new additions (at some absurd price) being sold on top-tier luxury cars, where you can already get IR vision assistance with pedestrian highlighting for a few grand - adding this to that tech package would make sense, After a few years it might come down to more common luxury cars, which gets production up to where it can start the road to normal cars.

        Backup cameras used to be just as "who needs that" luxury, after all.

        • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

          My current car (a 12 Infiniti) has the steering headligts - great in the parking lot, really makes a different, not sure how much it matters at speed. It's currently a luxury feature, but with time and technology it won't be.

          Steering headlights aren't used as much at speed because at speed, you generally have far greater field of view so you can see farther ahead to anticipate.

          Steering headlights are useful at low speeds, generally urban turns and corners where the light suddenly pointing out a pedestrian i

        • Yesterday's luxury is Today's necessity is Tomorrow's basic human right. As in I have a basic human right to have a car with a backup camera and smart headlights and a Blu-ray player for the kids and Pandora and....
      • "Back in the day, Tucker prototyped a car that had a headlight that aimed with the steering"

        Rolls Royce (and others) had this in the 1920s. It was especially popular in India for use on mountain roads.

    • by sinij ( 911942 )
      Try well over $5000 per to replace. At least that is how much adjustable laser-based headlights on the new BMW 7-series cost.
      • by Dins ( 2538550 )
        I believe you, but I have a hard time believing the headlights on a $75,000 car truly cost $5,000. That's 6% of the purchase price just for lights. I'm sure standard obscene OEM part mark-ups apply, but I wonder how much they truly cost.
    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      Better to be dead from bad lighting hiding a road hazard than to pay someone for a repair for something. That'll teach them.

      At least, you won't have to worry about them in the US. They are illegal. The new adaptive headlights by Audi are not for sale in the US, but are (almost?) everywhere else.
      • Better to be dead from bad lighting hiding a road hazard than to pay someone for a repair for something. That'll teach them.

        At least, you won't have to worry about them in the US. They are illegal. The new adaptive headlights by Audi are not for sale in the US, but are (almost?) everywhere else.

        There are better solutions to this particular problem such as collision avoidance systems. I'd rather put money into something that can "see" much further down the road than a complicated lighting system and the driver's natural vision.

        • There are better solutions to this particular problem such as collision avoidance systems.

          Audi provides those, too.

          I'd rather put money into something that can "see" much further down the road than a complicated lighting system and the driver's natural vision.

          The only company with more self-driving tech on the road than Audi is Mercedes. Tesla is supposed to come right up to speed with an upcoming software update, we'll see.

          • "The only company with more self-driving tech on the road than Audi is Mercedes."

            You're confusing Audi with VW.

            Everything in the recent crosscountry Audi was built and designed by Delphi (an automotive parts and electronics firm spun off of GM in the 1990s), not by Audi.

            Delphi stand to make billions by having this stuff incorporated widely as they sell to _all_ vehicle makers - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • If you think someone is going to die because they had regular headlights instead of these headlights then you're an absolute fucking retard.
        • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
          Then I'm an absolute fucking retard. I've studied crashes (like as in crash reconstruction in engineering classes), and someone walking across a median is invisible when two oncoming cars are at the right distance in the right lighting conditions. The pedestrian is illuminated insufficiently compared to the oncoming glare. Yes, even if wearing white (though not if wearing a full yellow retro-reflective suit).

          So the invisible object, whether human, animal, or other, is invisible because of the lighting.
    • What makes you think it'll be that expensive? A DLP projector does basically the same thing, and the DLP chip itself can be bought for a few bucks. All you need is a to pair it with a high-speed camera which picks out bright spots and immediately directs that individual DLP mirror away from that location.

      I'm sure it'll be super-expensive when it first rolls out. But if the base technologies they're using are easily mass producible, it should get cheap quickly. The first flat screen TV hit the mass ma
      • But there are competitors in the flat-screen market. These headlights can easily be proprietary, blocking aftermarket replacement parts. And even if there are aftermarket replacements, the market won't be large enough to drive down price - each car maker will have incompatible parts, probably even model-specific.
      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Because the current latest and greatest already cost even more.

    • "They also hope to incorporate GPS data to adjust the direction of the headlights according to the lane that a driver is occupying, illuminating it more brightly compared to surrounding lanes."

      I was all for the complicated but elegant solution until I hit that phrase. Considering how often GPS data sets can't even figure out that a road is one-way, this sounds like a solution that's going to behave very oddly when the data doesn't line up with the reality.

      They've got lots of good ideas, but there are huge

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        I can just see all the cars "looking" all over the place in NYC as soon as they come out of the tunnel, then finally just going cross eyed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 27, 2015 @02:29PM (#49563243)

    Just give the ability to automatically brighten and focus the lights on the slow driver ahead, the slower they get, the more focused the beams in their rear view and side mirrors.

    That's all I need.

    • by taustin ( 171655 )

      I knew a guy, years ago, who had the magic touch for that - he'd just flick the rearview mirror and it would shine the headlights of the car behind us perfectly back in the driver's eyes. I wish I would do that.

    • For the past year I've made a conscious effort to disengage my mind from the negative aspects of driving. My best solution is to drive with an engaging audio book or podcast playing. Instead of trying to change the behavior of other drivers, I'm working on self-improvement.
  • That read like it was from The Onion. Around individual rain drops?

    • Re:What? Wait ... (Score:5, Informative)

      by bughunter ( 10093 ) <{ten.knilhtrae} {ta} {retnuhgub}> on Monday April 27, 2015 @02:57PM (#49563499) Journal

      The bit you're apparently not grasping is something called a spatial light modulator.

      You've probably encountered one as a digital cinema projector, or possibly even own one for PowerPoint presentations.

      Couple it with a microwave radar or ultrasound sonar, and you can track individual raindrops and then cast shadows on them.

      Sounds unnecessarily expensive for consumer automotive, but might be nice for buses/locomotives, emergency vehicles or passenger aircraft.

      • The bit you're apparently not grasping is something called a spatial light modulator. ... Couple it with a microwave radar or ultrasound sonar, and you can track individual raindrops and then cast shadows on them.

        Then construct an object that appears to the system to be raindrops and you can put an invisible obstacle in the road. B-b

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        No you can't cast a shadow on each raindrop. . Only all of the raindrops Ina fixed plane. Because of the circle of confusion.

    • I'm thinking of DLP projectors, or even a black and white CRT display. Something is spinning or scanning so fast that not only it avoids lighting up certain zones, it's so precise that it gives you a recognizable picture with human people and faces etc. and so fast they seem to be moving.

      Let's say you have infrared lights, an infrared camera filming the rain and a black and white DLP projector trained on it (reverse video), acting as a car headlight. You would need a very low latency though, or perhaps the

  • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @02:42PM (#49563365)

    Those stupidly overbright headlamps that dazzle you could be replaced by ones that dim themselves when they see oncoming traffic.

    Or, you know, just made illegal. I'm sure they don't actually improve road safety, at least, not for everyone.

    • Its near-future design would also be able to avoid glare even when the high beam is in use, detecting up-coming vehicles [...]

      My father bought a Cadillac in 1980 that had its headlights working like this. The high beams were on more or less by default, but would switch to regular headlights when an on-coming car approached.

      • by taustin ( 171655 )

        I saw one of those driving through a parking lot once. It saw every light pole as an oncoming car, so the headlights would go bright, dim, bright, dim, endlessly. It was hilarious.

        The technology in 1980 was . . . not fully developed.

    • Those stupidly overbright headlamps that dazzle you could be replaced by ones that dim themselves when they see oncoming traffic.

      Wouldn't this do that automatically? The mechanism shouldn't be able to distinguish between light being reflected off a snowflake, and light coming from another car. And will dim its headlight aimed at that location in both cases.

    • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

      What they really need is lights that come on in the rain for all the people that either don't know to turn them on or forget. I'm tired of grey/silver cars suddenly appearing out of a driving rain almost on top of me. Turn the damn lights on! Maybe they could also get them to come on at dusk and in parking garages and tunnels.

    • by Bratch ( 664572 )

      I wish law enforcement would crack down on the stupidly overbright headlamps.
      I think "Hulk SMASH" in my head everytime they momentarily blind me.

      • Is that the SUV that you think has it's high beams on until you flash them so they flash you back and you see spots for five minutes? He lives down the street from me I think he uses the high beams when he goes camping to roast marshmallows.

    • How about if they can program the headlight to avoid the pupils and irises of people? That could be cool.
    • Most of this is due to improperly installed HID conversions (Putting HID bulbs in without projectors/fake projectors). Illegal in most parts of the world except the U.S.

      • Most of this is due to improperly installed HID conversions (Putting HID bulbs in without projectors/fake projectors).

        It's actually dumber than that. It's putting in the wrong HID bulbs. You can get ones that put the arc in the right place, the same place that the halogen filament would be.

        • The filament in a halogen bulb isn't the same size and shape as the incandescent gas in an HID bulb. The reflector would need to be redesigned in order to use an HID buib without causing glare. It is pretty much never a good idea to use an HID bulb in a halogen fixture.
          • The filament in a halogen bulb isn't the same size and shape as the incandescent gas in an HID bulb.

            The gas doesn't luminesce. The arc provides the light directly. You can put it wherever you want if you plan ahead.

          • Not true; the arc itself is what creates the light and if you select the correct lamp you can use the same reflector or projector headlamp to get the right beam pattern. The only difference is the old H6054 style sealed beams sprayed light pretty much everywhere but modern composite headlamp assemblies do not do this. You can even get properly designed reflector or projector assemblies and replace the H6054 with the newer assemblies and the beam pattern will be just fine.

            In fact many newer cars which offer

    • by skids ( 119237 )

      Or side-and-rear-mounted lights that illuminate the road beside you, and a V2V communication bus that allows headight systems to cooperate to light the road and not shine in other driver's eyes.

      I actually find this research more realistic and practical than self-driving cars.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      In Europe extra bright headlights (HID, LED etc.) are require to have auto-levelling so as not to blind oncoming drivers. You are not allowed to fit them to cars that don't have auto-levelling as an upgrade.

    • "Those stupidly overbright headlamps that dazzle you could be replaced by ones that dim themselves when they see oncoming traffic."

      Such things have existed since the 1950s. In production USA vehicles no less.

      People wouldn't buy them.

  • If they sense that disaster is impending, they simply turn themselves off to prevent the driver from becoming overly distressed in his last moments! (Think Peril-sensitive shades for your car!)
  • .. yeah, so when will they be programmed to not blind oncoming drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. So far, any improvement I've noted in headlight technology is wasted by the fact that none of the new headlights seem to be illuminating the road, instead we're getting an illumination arms races because headlights are making it hard for anyone (other traffic, travelling in opposite directions) to see where and what they're doing.

    • by bazorg ( 911295 )

      I drove a 2011 Mercedes E class that did just that. I called them 'polite headlights'. I'm sure other manufacturers know how to do the same kind of thing.

      • Not quite the same. This system leaves the light on the high setting overall, but dims the part of the beam that would hit the oncoming driver. Result: a well lit road, but reduced glare.

    • by labnet ( 457441 )

      #this#
      HID headlights, especially those front lens type ones, are now so bright, that they leave you night blind for a second or so when inevitably hit you the eyeballs. If car makers want super bright headlights, they need to be designed to not be able to night blind other drivers.

      • Usually the cars that are meant to come with HID headlights will not blind you, because the reflector is designed to cut off the beam above headlight level. The cars that blind you are almost always cars that were made for halogen, but have HIDs installed.
        • by labnet ( 457441 )

          Usually the cars that are meant to come with HID headlights will not blind you, because the reflector is designed to cut off the beam above headlight level.

          The problem is cars that come over rises or banked coners.

    • If you read the linked article, you'd see that lighting the road - and blocking light that would hit oncoming drivers - is very much what they are working on.

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @02:48PM (#49563433) Journal

    I did a bunch of work recently on a headlight that automatically dims just the area around a detected oncoming car, so you can drive with your brights on all the time and it'll automatically filter out detected oncoming traffic so they don't get blinded.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
    (Sucks to be a pedestrian in this world, though...)
    It uses steering wheel position, input from a webcam, and gps and map data to determine where the beam distribution is directed. This specific implementation only works on red cars, but we have some good ideas about how to generalize this.
    Current car lights are already optimized somewhat to illuminate further and higher on the outside side of the car compared to the inside, to reduce glare for oncoming drivers. Doing this automatically, over a wider area, will be a nice stopgap until autonomous vehicles render this whole focus irrelevant.

    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      This specific implementation only works on red cars, but we have some good ideas about how to generalize this.

      If you can reliably see that an oncoming car is red through a webcam at night, you've already blinded the other driver! Instead of making generalized car-recognition algorithms, why not take advantage of the fact that the other cars will have their lights on, too? The location and color of the various car lights are fairly standardized.

      • The location and color of the various car lights are fairly standardized.

        What? Who told you that? The landscape is complicated for all but malaise-era cars due to the existence of multiple technologies both in production and the aftermarket, and it's about to get a whole lot moreso with the proliferation of LED headlights, active-aiming headlights, and headlights like the ones discussed in TFA with other active light modulation technologies.

        • by chihowa ( 366380 )

          Are you claiming that there are no vehicular lighting [wikipedia.org] standards [wikipedia.org] in place [wikipedia.org], or that you can't instantly recognize the position and orientation of a car in the dark based on its lights alone?

          Identifying cars based on their lights may be complicated, but it's by far the simplest method of identifying cars by CV at night.

  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @02:51PM (#49563445)
    Such over-engineered solution is probably works great on a clear night over smooth road with a new car. Try the same over potholed road, when entire front of your car is iced up, with a car that is now 6+ years old and both servos and sensors are worn.

    My personal experiences with early generation of 'around the corner' adjustable headlights is that they visibly vibrate over bumps (you can see cutoff oscillate).
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] Their technology is used to avoid blinding oncoming drivers instead of trying to "miss" raindrops.
  • by hondo77 ( 324058 )
    You mean like this?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • ...considering that self-driving cars are just a few weeks away?

  • I already have most of this function in my Opel Insignia... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiSCCXaxzXc
  • " Its near-future design would also be able to avoid glare even when the high beam is in use, detecting up-coming vehicles and disabling the range of light that is directed at it."

    Very near 'future' indeed. My 2 year old VW Golf has that feature. Benz has had it for years.

  • ..instead passing light around the individual drops

    What the hell is THIS crap anyway? Sounds like a great way to both add a couple thousand dollars onto the price of a new car, and to also create a highly complex point of failure that you can't just stop by any auto parts store to fix in 10 minutes. Lights that follow the path of the car based on steering angle, sure, that's sensible (I have a helmet-mounted instead of handlebar-mounted light for night riding on my bike for that very reason) but the rest of it? Nonsense. Standard lighting on a gimbal that

  • Apparently most people have no idea about the appropriate use of high beams and auxiliary lights, manufacturers just keep making headlights brighter and more dazzling, and governments require them to be mounted higher rather than lower, resulting in oncoming drivers being blinded. In light of all this, automating the lighting systems could help, given that oncoming lighting is just getting worse every year.

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