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Smart headlight aims to defeat pesky precipitation

New headlight technology out of Carnegie Mellon University can predict precipitation and dim itself when needed for safer driving.

An illustration of how the smart headlight works. As noted in the official research paper, "all particles are first detected by illuminating them in a very short period of time, their future locations are predicted, and then the rays intersecting them are reactively turned off."
Carnegie Mellon University/ILIM laboratory at the Robotics Institute

Driving around in a snowstorm or heavy rain often feels similar to the hyperspace travel effect seen in the various "Star Wars" movies, which can distract even the most seasoned driver (unless you can make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs). A new smart headlight from Carnegie Mellon University could make distracting precipitation far less dangerous to drive through.

Developed by CMU Robotics Institute professor Srinivasa Narasimhan, the smart headlight contains an imaging system consisting of a projector, camera, and light beam splitter.

As precipitation falls into the camera's field of view, a built-in sensor uses an original algorithm to predict its future location and temporarily darkens the headlight in that area accordingly. The entire detection and shading process takes only 13 milliseconds, meaning that rain, slow, and sleet barely reflect off car headlights. The driver would never see the headlight dimming for each falling drop.

Of course, many technical challenges remain. In a presentation, Narasimhan acknowledges that "wind, turbulence, and vibrations" from high speed can interfere with the smart headlight. He also noted that his team -- consisting of Raoul de Charette, Robert Tamburo, Peter Barnum, Anthony Rowe, and Takeo Kanade -- continues to work on making a more compact smart headlight.

(Via The Engineer)