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Smart Headlights

July 19, 2012

“Smart” headlights improve visibility by illuminating the road ahead, but not raindrops or snowflakes.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Smarter headlights.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

If you drive at night through rain or snow, it’s hard to see.  That’s partly because a car’s headlights light up the raindrops and snowflakes instead of the open road.  Srinivasa Narasimhan and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute are developing a headlight that won’t do that.

SRINIVASA NARASIMHAN (Carnegie Mellon University):

So what we are trying to do here is we are sort of subdividing that beam of light that is going out into tiny little beams, or pixels.

HIRSHON:
In other words, it works more like a movie projector than a light bulb.  A high-speed camera constantly takes pictures of the rain or snow ahead, while a computer calculates where those droplets will be in a few milliseconds.  That way, the headlight can keep adjusting itself, and shine its tiny beams only into the clear areas.  Right now, each adjustment takes about 13 milliseconds; Narasimhan’s team wants to get it down to two or three. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.