Auto Tech

Mercedes' wild new headlights project an HD image onto the road

This dazzle-free lighting has a high enough definition to put legible images on the road. Crazy.

Daimler

Audi's laser lights are pretty neat, but can they display HD images on the ground? No? Well, Mercedes-Benz's new Digital Light system can, and it's pretty neat.

The secret behind Digital Light is a very complicated LED setup that uses computer chips and mirrors to display actual images on the road. It can put your navigation directions onto the road in front of you, or it could warn you that you're getting too close to another car. It can also display the width of the vehicle if you're about to squeeze through a questionable gap.

I wonder if you could hack these headlights and play Flappy Bird on the pavement.

Daimler

Displaying pictures on the ground is neat and all, but its headlights are also meant to provide an extra degree of safety to others on the road. Those mirrors can also prevent bicyclists and other drivers from being dazzled by the oncoming light. If the system recognizes a biker heading toward the car, it can dip the lights to avoid the cyclist's eyes.

One of the neatest examples involves a pedestrian crossing the road in front of a Mercedes. The car can recognize the pedestrian and use Digital Light to display a zebra crossing, which tells the pedestrian that the car sees and acknowledges the pedestrian's right of way. How neat is that?

It will likely be a while before this technology is implemented on road cars. It's probably quite expensive at the moment, and it will undoubtedly require some sort of government approval. Here in the US, we still don't have Audi's Matrix LED headlight system, which offers similar anti-dazzle protection, because of some draconian regulations involving headlights. But these lights have a real chance to increase nighttime safety for all parties involved, so let's hope the government comes around.