Your car's old headlights may be getting a makeover. A new "smart headlight" invented by the brainiacs at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute purportedly has the ability to make even the thickest rainstorm or snowfall look like a light drizzle, drastically improving visibility. Here's what you should know about this innovative new technology:
How does it work?
When you're driving a car equipped with conventional headlights through the rain, their steady beams hit water droplets and reflect light back at you, making it harder to see. But this new headlight mounts an intelligent camera over a complicated array of tiny lights. The high-speed camera uses an algorithm to predict the path of individual rain drops (kind of like anticipating where blocks will fall in Tetris), and when a raindrop's path intersects with the precise beam of one of the individual mini-lights, the system briefly flicks that beam off. Result: A major reduction in glare. "A human eye will not be able to see that flicker of the headlights," says Srinivasa Narasimhan, associate professor of robotics. "And because the precipitation particles aren't being illuminated, the driver won't see the rain or snow either."
But what happens if the system fails?
It "will not fail in a catastrophic way," says Narasimhan. Even if a smart headlight stops working for some reason, it just becomes a normal headlight.
How effective is it?
During lab tests at low speeds, the smart headlight was able to eliminate the appearance of 70 to 80 percent of visible rain during a heavy storm while losing only 5 or 6 percent of light from the headlamp.
When can I buy these headlights?
Not for a while. The project is still in its infancy, and the system will need to react faster to work at highway speeds, especially during snow or hail. But the team is "confident this is perfectly possible," says Kate Taylor at TG Daily, so stay tuned.
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