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Mercedes' Digital Light promises a world where headlights do more

The new computer-controlled high-definition headlights from Mercedes can project signals onto the road to help convey information about a driver's surroundings.

Mercedes-Benz, being the kind of company that it is, is never content to leave something well enough alone, not even its already excellent headlights. Now it has unveiled Digital Light technology at the Geneva Motor Show which promises dazzle-free high-definition lighting for owners of the newest Mercedes-Maybach.

What is Digital Light apart from something that sounds like a rejected Jamiroquai album title? It is a system in which each headlight features a chip which, on its surface, has over 1 million micro-reflectors. These reflectors are controllable, which allow the vehicle's computer to adjust beam pattern on the fly. It can even use this feature to project symbols on the road in light to help make drivers aware of things like low-grip conditions or pedestrians.

If this sounds expensive and involved, it is; which is why the technology is making its debut exclusively in the top-trim range of the Mercedes-Maybach range. Select fleets will receive cars equipped with Digital Light in the latter half of 2018.

If Mercedes can find a way to make this technology more affordable, then it could have exciting applications in performance vehicles for example, where it combines with GPS data to project the ideal driving line on a curvy mountain road, for example. Mercedes can also add to its library of symbols, giving the lights a more detailed vocabulary to describe road conditions.