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Transportation Digital Technology

Mercedes' Futuristic Headlights Shine Warning Symbols On the Road (gizmodo.com) 139

In its new high-end vehicles, Daimler says it will introduce programmable, "million-pixel" headlights that project warning symbols and driving tips on the road. "The technology, which Daimler calls Digital Light, was demoed as a concept ten years ago, but at the Geneva Motor Show it's finally being introduced as a feature that's 'expected' to be available on certain Mercedes-Maybach S-Class vehicles sometime this year," reports Gizmodo. From the report: Sitting alongside the vehicle's standard headlights are a pair of small monochrome projectors that each feature "a resolution of over one million pixels," Daimler claims, resulting in an "HD-quality" image being projected onto the road surface ahead of the vehicle. Using data from the car's onboard sensors, as well as traffic and obstacle data that GPS devices rely on, the headlights project symbols like a snowflake indicating slippery conditions ahead, a construction symbol reminding drivers to slow down for road workers, arrows for where to turn, and even simple white lines representing the size of your vehicle so you can immediately tell if you're able to squeeze into a narrow parking spot. The ability to selectively switch off pixels means the S-Class' headlights could help drivers avoid blinding oncoming vehicles or pedestrians, as onboard sensors detect faces and windshields and automatically dim the brightness in those areas.
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Mercedes' Futuristic Headlights Shine Warning Symbols On the Road

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  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:08AM (#56221013) Journal
    I find it so cumbesome to fish out my phone to read texts, especially at highway speeds. It would be great if this feature will project incoming text messages. Also can it stream Netflix. I have seen the road many times, and there is no plot interest in the road or scenery. Would be great to have something interesting to watch other the road when I am driving.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      But then other motorists will read your sexting and see your junk.

      • Duh, that's the whole point.
        • by postbigbang ( 761081 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @09:03AM (#56221189)

          Watch this get turned into political messages, bad bumper sticker clones, and worse: advertising.

          And for those that shine dick pics: make sure the finish of your car can be protected from deep key scratches. I sadly know a couple of people who wouldn't hesitate..... or cut you off with millimeters to spare.

          • Watch this get turned into political messages, bad bumper sticker clones, and worse: advertising.

            And for those that shine dick pics: make sure the finish of your car can be protected from deep key scratches. I sadly know a couple of people who wouldn't hesitate..... or cut you off with millimeters to spare.

            Hopefully they'll find their way into a cell before they kill too many people.

            • If you don't know two crazy people in your circle of friends and acquaintances, your life is dull. Fortunately, the ones I know aren't armed.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                Or maybe it is you?

          • Maybe there's a way I could use this feature to give advice to other drivers. Like "Hey, slow down idiot" or "Next time use a turn signal." I'm sure that would go over well.
            • Being able to project a message to the car in front of me is a long standing dream of mine. Something like, "It's 55mph here idiot", or "Put down your phone fuckwad". Also the bit about turn signals you mentioned.
          • Oh god, they would be used like bumper-stickers. Crap.

            As for "dick pics", that is a favor to everyone around. They can't see my genitalia while I'm sitting in my car and that just isn't fair to them.

    • Netflix? Don't be ridiculous. These are pure black and white dots.

      On the other hand, maybe they could display Game Boy games using dithering.

    • by stealth_finger ( 1809752 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @09:45AM (#56221311)
      No, but it will probably display ads.
    • Some neat effects can be done projecting onto building and statue faces and then suddenly animating them. Imagine the possible panic attack road hazards one could get. Huge cracks opening in the earth with lava bubbling up. A large 16Tonne weight suddenly falling from the above. A wrecking ball swingin down the road towards your windshield. A motorcycle tumbling end over end tossed by the incredible hulk.

    • Mmmhhh...it's not so great.
      I tested it and I permanently had the feeling that someone was "co-watching" my film over my shoulder...
      Kind of took the thrill away...

    • I have seen the road many times, and there is no plot interest in the road or scenery. Would be great to have something interesting to watch other the road when I am driving.

      Hey, with this technology, you can project pictures of pedestrians who aren't there right in your oncoming path. If you are skillful enough to "hit" them . . . you will get points!

      Turn your boring drive to work into "Death Race 2000" . . . !

  • Interesting idea in theory,
    However the car is broadcasting data to the public, that an individual may not want to share. Lets say it is linked to the GPS and shows where to turn, for the most part that will be great, because it is like an enhanced reality display, except for the fact everyone else knows where you are going.

    Or if you see the warning displayed and you failed to take the accurate action leaving to a traffic ticket, because you don't have the excuse you didn't know about the road condition.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You should be letting other drivers know where you are going anyway, it's called using a turn signal.

      • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:25AM (#56221043)

        I was thinking more about stay straight for 30 miles. Then turn right you have reached your destination.

        Turn signals are to tell people what you are going to be doing with your car. Vs telling where you car wants to be. Also this could give confusing information if the car says turn right and you decide to ignore that particular GPS request so the onlookers don't know if you just didn't use your turn signal, or you are going straight.

        • Not putting on your turn signal tells people you are going straight. You still need to use and observe other people's turn signals. I doubt many other motorist or pedestrians would be at a good vantage point to read these projections anyway. First because they are on the ground in front of the vehicle and second because they will be projected for the driver's vantage point and will look distorted to others.
          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            This is why serious offensive drivers learn to turn their turn signals on randomly and then leave them on for extended periods of time without actually turning or changing lanes. Only by actively engaging in disinformation can you truly keep other drivers on their toes.

            • by Cederic ( 9623 )

              or the classic 'indicate right, move left' combo.

              Don't forget turning on foglights at night to make sure they're looking at your car too.

      • by shortscruffydave ( 638529 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:55AM (#56221149)

        You should be letting other drivers know where you are going anyway, it's called using a turn signal.

        The car in question is a Mercedes - your argument is invalid

      • by dbialac ( 320955 )
        I'd hack it to project messages into the rear-view mirror of the car in front of me. Things like, "There's no traffic, the speed limit is 55, you're going 30. Speed up."
    • Interesting idea in theory, However the car is broadcasting data to the public, that an individual may not want to share. Lets say it is linked to the GPS and shows where to turn, for the most part that will be great, because it is like an enhanced reality display, except for the fact everyone else knows where you are going.

      This privacy concern is becoming more and more irrelevant. Social media narcissists always seem to feel the need to tell the world what they're doing and where they're going every minute of the day. You could probably find out where the person is going by looking at their social media accounts. It's easy to find them online since the vanity license plate is their fucking Twitter handle.

    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      Or if you see the warning displayed and you failed to take the accurate action leaving to a traffic ticket, because you don't have the excuse you didn't know about the road condition.

      I don't have much sympathy for somebody getting a traffic ticket in this situation. Maybe they should also be forced to retake the driving test too?

      • I am a proponent on Innocent until proven guilty. And living a life not worried that the state will find a way to arrest you or fine you for every lapse in judgement.

        Because the issue are often far more complex. So the car tells you the road is icy, but where is it icy? So you may had been checking on your right side for ice, while your car hit the Ice on your left side, causing you to spin because you were breaking trying to look for the ice.

        Now if the police came, and saw the car saying it was icy, you c

    • except for the fact everyone else knows where you are going.

      How is that any different than turn signals we are supposed to use now?

    • Interesting idea in theory, ... However the car is broadcasting data to the public.

      In the UK it is illegal to display unofficial road signs, including painting them on the road, even if they are "true". For example many people have tried putting up their own speed limit signs where roads pass through their village, and I have been told am not allowed to put up road works signs when I cut my hedge which is on a country road. These projected signs would seem to fall into the same category; at best they are a distraction to other motorists. What's wrong with a heads-up display, or have th

    • Or if you see the warning displayed and you failed to take the accurate action leaving to a traffic ticket, because you don't have the excuse you didn't know about the road condition.

      Or if the system gets it wrong and displays a warning when there isn't a reason and you react badly. I'm not sure I/we need more, possibly confusing, visual distractions when driving.

  • by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:26AM (#56221045)

    Current regulations are in the shape of 'no more than 55W (assuming halogen and ignoring more efficient lighting options that would produce far more light at that power level), light bundled in shape X'.
    As a result, modern headlight systems are usually fine when viewed from straight ahead, but become uncomfortably bright when viewed from an angle (encountering such a vehicle on a curvy road, or cresting a hill). All too often I can't see shit because of that.

    • by sabbede ( 2678435 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:43AM (#56221105)
      I wouldn't mind some lumen limits. I've been blinded too many times myself.
      • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @09:57AM (#56221341)

        I wouldn't mind some lumen limits. I've been blinded too many times myself.

        Brightness isn't the problem. It's vehicle height and headlight adjustment (as well as lazy people driving with their high beams on). Too many vehicles are being made stupidly high in the SUV craze but don't have their headlights adjusted downwards to prevent blinding drivers in normal sized cars. Manufacturers don't do this because it would make their vehicles unsafe to drive at night and lets face it, SUV drivers are terrible at the best of time.

        • by Rob Y. ( 110975 )

          Some of the bikes in the NYC Citibike system have something like this. They project a bright green picture of a bicycle onto the road in front of you. I assume this is so cars can see you coming - not for you to look at. But it's super bright and annoying as hell. Now, part of that might be because the projector is mounted on the handle bars, so the image moves around as you swivel the front wheel. But still, imagine a road full of cars projecting bright lights onto the street. Uggh.

      • You don't need to limit the lumens, you need to control the beam direction. If you've been blinded either someone has their high-beams in your face (already illegal in most of the world) or their lights aren't dipped enough (already illegal in most of the world) or their lights have been modified with an illegal beam pattern (err redundant, but already illegal in most of the world).

        • by Cederic ( 9623 )

          Or they just came over the brow of a hill, or over a humpback bridge, or they hit a pothole, or the road just isn't as flat as Holland.

          Yeah, can't imagine any scenarios in which a stupidly bright light would never shine in another driver's face.

          • Your issue is not the lumens. Any headlight that can suitably light the road will already blind the oncoming driver. This is precisely why variable dipped beams and projectors were invented in the first place.

        • Or I'm driving a compact and coming the other way is a lifted pickup or bigass SUV.
          • And if his beam his your eyes than his height is already illegally setup. A new law doesn't fix this.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Colour temperature is important too. Why the super-high bluish-white temps? At night!? Yeah,because we can market it as "starlight"... whatever! Warmer colors (yellowish-white) would be better for both the driver and those who get blinded by that light.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      N. America could do with the same headlight lighting pattern as in Europe, where there's a sharp cut-off to prevent dazzling and an up sweep to light the edge of the road, which makes it easier to drive curves in the dark when there are oncoming vehicles. The downside is that N. American roads tend to have more overhead signs, which don't get lit up so well.

      Oh, and maybe a real driving test so people don't use their lights inappropriately, some real enforcement to discourage those who continue to do so, an

      • I'm in Europe - the sharp cutoff and upsweep are what's causing the problems.
        The upsweep illuminates the road and oncoming traffic when you're going through a righthand curve. A hill, bump or slight misalignment puts oncoming traffic within the cutoff.

    • US Headlight regs have always sucked. Back in the day, we'd toss the US DOT lights and insert E code lights. A 55/60 H4 plus a 100 watt H1 on a separate relay and switch took you from city to the ability to spot deer on farm roads. Today I am convinced the base lights on most normal cars are like the base stereo. It is designed to make up buy the upgrade. US headlight regs still suck but unless you get the HID option, you still aren't as good as the H4 setup I bolted on back in the 80's. My current ca
    • As a result, modern headlight systems are usually fine when viewed from straight ahead, but become uncomfortably bright when viewed from an angle (encountering such a vehicle on a curvy road, or cresting a hill). All too often I can't see shit because of that.

      This! My pet peeve is when the two vehicles are at different heights or angles. In the hilly Northeast, its a sort of roulette. The oncoming car's lights might be focused on an area that isn't an issue, or you might be able to count the veins inside your eyeball. Some times I think that the people who designed these damn highly focused headlamps never ventured out of Northwest Ohio, where the land is utterly flat.

      A different issue is the stupid blue lights. It has been known for a long time that visual a

  • I think most of it is just gimmicks except for the highlighting pedestrians and not dazzling other road users which are going to be a big improvement for road safety.
  • It's monochrome, meaning you can only project old black and white movies with a hacked Benz. Lame.

    Make it color and I'll be impressed.

  • by froggyjojodaddy ( 5025059 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @08:56AM (#56221159)
    This is really bizarre. I'm not sure why projecting onto the road is better than using tried-and-true technology like HUD (Heads up Display). Surely it would be better to project warnings etc. via HUD vs. onto the road? I have a HUD in my BMW and it is one of those technologies that I found genuinely useful and non-obtrusive.

    For example, it shows turn by turn directions projected onto my windscreen, so I don't have to move my eyes or head. The location is just perfect and doesn't obstruct anything.

    Would be great if we could understand the rationale Daimler used to project vs. HUD. I'm sure there's a reason, I just can't figure out what it would be.
    • by 4im ( 181450 )

      Also, HUD is where it should be - within the car, no distraction to others around it.

      Imagine if everybody projected $WHATEVER onto the road... overlapping, rendering things unreadable anyway.

      Beamers are nice gadgets, but I don't see a sensible use for them around a car, most
      especially when it's moving in traffic.

    • Would be great if we could understand the rationale Daimler used to project vs. HUD. I'm sure there's a reason, I just can't figure out what it would be.

      The HUD is one of the few few features in newer BMWs that I would like to have in my '11. I've driven loaners with it and found it useful (would be more useful with the tach, which they reserve for M models IIRC). And of course the HUD works fine in the rain, fog, and any ambient lighting condition. I'm not sure how well these projectors will work in the daytime on a snow covered road. Seems like a solution to a problem that is already better solved.

      • Would be cool if they could actively avoid illuminating snowflakes in a snowstorm so you could see.

    • I can: cost. a hud would require a much more expensive precision engineered windshield and windshields are commonly replaced. I have already heard problems with current forward-collision detection systems that point a camera out the front window. Buy a cheaper aftermarket replacement? Well its properties are different and the system goes nuts and doesn't work.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I'm not sure why projecting onto the road is better than using tried-and-true technology like HUD (Heads up Display).

      As a BMW owner, you must know the importance of projecting your status symbol as far as possible!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There wouldn't be a Slashdot story if it was just another HUD.

    • This is a feature that it says will be limited to the Maybach line of vehicles.

      They start at $160,000 USD.

      They have to find new features to add in order to keep the cars attractive to prospective buyers.

      And they have to do this year after year to make existing customers interested as well.

    • This is really bizarre. I'm not sure why projecting onto the road is better than using tried-and-true technology like HUD (Heads up Display). Surely it would be better to project warnings etc. via HUD vs. onto the road? I have a HUD in my BMW and it is one of those technologies that I found genuinely useful and non-obtrusive.

      They probably could avoid the HUD patents.

      I've driven a BMW with HUD. It's awesome, inobtrusive, and very natural to use. The only thing is that I wish it would display more information. Bet it's not available to others due to a bazillion patents.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is really bizarre. I'm not sure why projecting onto the road is better than using tried-and-true technology like HUD (Heads up Display). Surely it would be better to project warnings etc. via HUD vs. onto the road? I have a HUD in my BMW and it is one of those technologies that I found genuinely useful and non-obtrusive.

        They probably could avoid the HUD patents.

        I've driven a BMW with HUD. It's awesome, inobtrusive, and very natural to use. The only thing is that I wish it would display more information. Bet it's not available to others due to a bazillion patents.

        Toyota Prius has a heads up display, it's even better than BMW, it shows your GPS map and turn, it shows the hybrid system indicator throttle position, etc.

  • Why this continued bullshit about "HD-quality"?

    1 million pixels is just about VGA-quality.

  • We are taught to 'keep your eyes on the road' but this is not what that means. Anyway, it sounds like just one more unnecessary thing in the car that will cost a nice markup to fix.
    • Anyway, it sounds like just one more unnecessary thing in the car that will cost a nice markup to fix.

      Exactly what I was thinking. Headlights are expensive enough to replace already - plus, making them more complicated will almost certainly increase the frequency they need to be replaced.

      Not that Benz owners aren't already used to paying through the nose for simple car repairs...

  • for other drivers/pedestrians, but the info should use HUD. Doesn't Benz offer this as an option? I know GM, Lexus and Honda offer it. I imagine the patents GM filed when they first offered it have expired by now. Its been in their cars for 20 years or more. The current car I have offers nav directions on the HUD. Works great.

  • Mercedes drivers are already well known for finding new ways to do the stupid thing in the road. This extra distraction will only give them more opportunities. I am looking forward to the autonomous car era, if it is only because current Mercedes drivers will not be at the wheel.
  • Advertisements for hemorrhoid treatments; Amber Alerts; "Happy Birthday!" messages; strobe lights to accompany music streams; political adds; soft core porn; hard core porn; racial slurs; state laws deciding which slurs are traffic offenses; biblical verses; prohibitions on Arabic language headlight messages in Alabama; being fired for headlight crimes; going to court and claiming that your headlights were hacked by neo-Nazis..... and... Trump tweets.

    I think I'll just drive in daylight and take Uber w

  • So far not useful. What would be useful is to have a lidar or radar system that can actually detect deep potholes and deer, paint it with a laser, and use the headlight projectors to indicate where it will be and where you should move the car, assuming the car is not smart enough to avoid them itself. Car mountable projectors actually could be powerful enough to fully illuminate a deer but what happens in fog? The headlights could at least alert you to something the car can detect while keeping your eyes at

  • These are really cool gadgets but it would be nice if the Germans went back to making cars that lasted half a million miles and were serviced more easily, cost be damned. The S-class W126 sedans were luxurious, also had gadgets, and most of those gadgets still worked at 200k miles. But I suppose that's not the lifecycle of a luxury car these days.
    • Nobody makes engines that last anymore. Thank 20 weight oil, but you do get an extra 0.1 mpg.

      It's not just luxury cars. VWs are currently the _worst_ cars on the planet for serviceability. First step to replace a brake master cylinder on a new 'bug'...remove front bumper, no bullshit. Just say 'Hell No!'

      • Remove the front bumper for the brake master cylinder? What do you have to do to replace the heater core, take the wheels off?
  • and even simple white lines representing the size of your vehicle so you can immediately tell if you're able to squeeze into a narrow parking spot

    So no more parking in two spots like an incompetent jackass?

  • Just wait until someone hacks this and displays anything they want to all the other cars around :)
  • Peon, Peon, Peon, Peon, Peon, Dog, Peon, Peon, Peon, Cop, Peon, Bob, Peon, Peon.....

  • We have laws regarding public address systems in vehicles, the ability to broadcast images on the road will probably be similarly regulated and this feature won't make it into American cars for the same reasons PA systems are banned in non-emergency vehicles.

  • I can see this going horribly wrong. What if the arrow you are seeing on the pavement is being projected by the car next to you? Why not just a heads-up display for this sort of thing?

  • I don't see the benefit of this over a HUD.

  • Projecting onto a road or highway makes perfect sense. I have often thought that a slab of asphalt or concrete (maybe even dirt or gravel) would make an ideal projection surface for my home theater.
  • It's a terrible idea to allow the owner of a motor vehicle to modify the road signs and symbols.
  • I hope it can be set up to say, "Backoff asshole - stop tailgating."

  • Which brings up an interesting idea: How about posting a sign in a school area which says Speed Limit 100 MPH? Will the smart sensors and AI gear lookup my activities over the night, figure out how I painted that, and light up the road with an ultra bazillion-pixel projection that says: LOL ??? Or, will it (shudder) faithfully follow the sign? Or, launch a trunk-mounted missile to take out my zip code? :)

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