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Ford's High-Resolution Headlights Could Make Night Driving Even Safer

This is the first time we've seen this tech from a mass-market brand.

a car driving at night projects a snowflake onto the road from its headlights
In areas where elevation changes can bring big shifts in weather patterns, tech like this could be a huge boon to driver safety.

Using complex headlight technology to display images on the roadway is something we first saw a couple years ago, by way of Mercedes-Benz's Digital Light. This next-generation stuff hasn't really made its way into mass-market vehicles yet, but it appears Ford wants to change that.

Ford Europe on Monday unveiled what it calls high-resolution headlights. The idea is the same as Mercedes' Digital Light -- a vehicle's headlights will pack enough resolution to actually display images on the roadway ahead of a vehicle. This is in contrast to modern head-up displays, which project images onto the windshield.

Safety is one of the primary goals of Ford's high-resolution headlights. Ford can ensure its drivers are doing their best to drive safely by projecting speed-limit or weather information onto the road. It could also be tied into a car's turn-by-turn navigation to place directions ahead of upcoming turns, making it even harder to stray off the beaten path. The system could also display the vehicle's width onto the road, ensuring a driver doesn't try to sneak into a gap that's too small.

Benefits extend beyond the driver, too. If a vehicle is stopped, it can display a crosswalk in front of the car, letting nearby pedestrians know that it's safe to cross the road. It could also display a path around, say, a cyclist, so that the road can be shared in a safer manner.

In its press release, Ford Europe says the automaker is still trialing the technology, so there aren't any announcements about what production vehicles this tech could land in. It'll likely land in Europe first, as well; the US recently expanded what kinds of adaptive headlight systems are allowable, though, so it's possible that high-resolution headlights could land on both sides of the Atlantic in the coming years.