Unwanted Invention[1]: Smart Headlights

This invention is one George Blue and I came up with about 3 years ago. The problem it solves should be familiar to all motorists – you’re driving along at night with full beam headlamps on when you spot an oncoming car and have to drop to dipped beams. Suddenly there’s a vast gap of darkness between the light pools of your two cars, which could contain anything; the nightmare scenario is a Stag which decides the absence of light means it’s now safe to cross.

Current solutions are a bit deficient. If you’re an inconsiderate ba*d you can drive around with your high beams on all the time, at least until you’re arrested. Some BMWs have an oncoming car detector to automatically switch from dipped to high and back, which probably helps your concentration but doesn’t address this problem.

In the theoretical corner, there is a proposal somewhere on halfbakery to install an LCD layer in the windscreen to darken the parts which are in a line between the driver’s eyes and an oncoming vehicle’s high beams. This is only any use if the approaching driver has some way of knowing not to dip his lights, and other than making it mandatory in all cars it is difficult to see how that could work.

Our solution is to only illuminate the parts of the road ahead which do not include another car. Our solution also solves four other problems – you will not need headlamp angle control systems, you will not need to switch between high and low beams again, highly reflective street lights will never appear too bright and you won’t need to adjust your lights if you travel to a country where they drive on the other side of the road.

How does it work then? We bounce the light from the bulbs off a DLP chip before projecting it out the front of the car. This allows for fine, ever-changing control of the light field. Two forward-facing cameras and a bunch of processing are needed to sort out what needs to have its illumination level increased or decreased and to which DLP elements those correspond.

A bonus, for the marketeers, is that the car can project a high-definition greyscale image onto any conveniently positioned wall. I imagine this would mainly be (ab)used to brag about the car and its maker every time you start it.

Anyway, if you work for, say, Mercedes-Benz and you want this in your cars: drop me a line and we can talk about whether I can help you. This is something I want done.

One Response to “Unwanted Invention[1]: Smart Headlights”

  1. Richard Hopkins

    I had a great, but simple idea for headlights.

    Polarise them. That way, when it’s wet, they won’t reflect off the road surface and dazzle everyone. Oncoming traffic will be able to see the road markings.


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