Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Smart Headlights Make Driving in Precipitation Safer

A team of engineers at Carnegie Mellon University is developing a technology to make driving in rain or snow safer. Can you imagine headlights that can see between the raindrops? That’s just what researchers at the Illumination and Imaging (ILIM) laboratory at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon have created.

Standard headlights illuminate not only the road ahead, but also rain and snow, which creates glare and limits visibility. The ILIM team has devised a prototype “smart headlight” system that can avoid precipitation and maintain adequate illumination of the road and surrounding environment.

The system works by using a high-speed camera to record the location of raindrops and snowflakes. “All we have to do is use very simple models of motion to predict where they’re going to be in the next few milliseconds,” says lead researcher Srinivasa Narasimhan in a radio interview. Individual beams in the smart headlight can be turned on and off to avoid these particles. “So you’re streaming those beams of light in between the raindrops and snowflakes so that the light won’t hit any of these particles and therefore you may not see them,” Narasimhan says.