Carnegie Mellon University and Intel Create Smart Headlights for Easier Bad Weather Visibility

By Amanda Ciccatelli July 27, 2012

After a severe thunderstorm swept across parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic yesterday taking down trees and causing power outages along its path, many of us understand how difficult sight can be in bad weather that includes heavy rain or snow. And, without a clear view of the treacherous roads ahead, your safety is at stake.

Researchers from Intel Labs and Carnegie Mellon at the Intel Science and Technology Center for Embedded Computing have developed a smart headlight system to improve visibility for drivers in bad weather. TechWorldNews reported that the system uses cameras and a processor to predict the path of raindrops and snowflakes in front of an automobile and redirect headlight beams to shine between precipitation particles.

"This is pretty spectacular," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group said."I think it could be very useful."

The smart headlight system uses a camera to track raindrops and snowflakes motion and calculates their path with a processor using an algorithm. Then, the light projection system deactivates the light beams that would hit those particles. This is made possible because rain and snow fall at intervals, leaving enough space between them so that a responding system can shine light through those spaces.

The researchers used a camera with an off-the-shelf DLP projector to create an image using small mirrors laid out in a matrix on a semiconductor chip known as a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD). Each mirror represents one or more pixels in the projected image. Also, the mirrors can be repositioned quickly to reflect light through the lens.

According to Carnegie Melon, systems developed for use in automobiles would use LED arrays in which individual lights could be turned on or off as directed by the smart headlight system's processor. New LED technology might make it possible to combine LED light sources with image sensors on a single chip to keep down costs. Currently, Carnegie Mellon researchers are working to reduce the size of the smart headlight system.

At 60 miles an hour, an automobile travels 88 feet per second. It would travel more than one foot in 13 milliseconds. The researchers said the system's response time needs to be reduced for it to be effective at highway speeds as well as in snow or hail. The system could eliminate 70 to 80 percent of visible rain during a heavy storm while losing just five to six percent of the light from headlights when an automobile's traveling at low speeds.

Enderle suggested that the system will use an Intel processor. "It will probably be a low-power processor, perhaps some future version of Atom, or it could be purpose-built," Enderle told TechNewsWorld.

The smart headlight system will most likely be used in high-end cars like those from Mercedes and Maybach, according to Enderle. However, once there's enough volume, the system will also move to lower-end vehicles.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

TechZone360 Web Editor

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