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Smart Headlights

July 19, 2012

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



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.

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.