Ford is working on “intelligent” car headlights that will automatically adjust to the layout of the road and hazards such as cyclists and even animals.
The company’s cars already have some smart features to adjust the headlights automatically rather than rely solely on driver actions. For example, many models will automatically switch from high beam to dipped when needed to avoid dazzling the driver of an oncoming vehicle.
Some vehicles even have cameras which automatically recognize roundabouts/traffic circles and road signs and then adjust the lighting so that the driver has a better chance of reading them. (There are even some Ford vehicles that will read a speed limit sign and automatically slow down the car as needed.)
It’s the cameras from this technology that are being used in the new “Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting System.” This will use GPS and mapping data to automatically adjust lighting when the vehicle is coming up to a known bend or dip in the road.
The system has two back-up tools for situations where it doesn’t have any information about these bends and dips in its database. The first is to use the cameras to look ahead and spot any changes in the lane markings that indicate an upcoming bend. The second is to use rear camera to track any previously unknown bends and dips and add them to the database for future reference.
Ford is also developing a tool named “Spot Lighting” that uses an infra-red camera to not only spot people (including cyclists) and animals up to 120 meters away, but to track their movements. The system will then display the potential hazards on a video screen inside the car, highlighting them with a box that turns from yellow to red as the danger of collision increases. The car will even automatically shine a LED lamp onto the road itself to make the person or animal visible.
Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting System is expected by Ford to be available for customers “in the near term” while Spot Lighting is still at the pre-development stage. According to The Verge, however, the technologies are unlikely to appear in the US in the foreseeable future as they breach road regulations.