July 7, 2012
New Smart Headlights Dodge Raindrops
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Ever tried to dodge rain drops in a downpour? Well, that´s exactly what one new set of headlights are able to do.Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a smart headlight that can predict where rain falls, and adjust the light beams accordingly.
The researchers set out to develop a system that switches off rays of light that hit raindrops by using low-cost, off-the-shelf components. The team ended up with a projector, a camera and a beam-splitter.
The camera takes pictures of the falling rain, and a processor uses a predictive algorithm developed by the team to work out where rain will fall.
Once the process is complete, the projector switches off light rays that would have normally hit the raindrops. The entire process only takes about 13 milliseconds.
The headlight is dimmer than other lights, but is able to block out glare from falling rain or snow.
The team's early prototype, which was tested in the lab while using artificial raindrops, found that the system worked best at slower speeds.
The system had a 79 percent success rate at making raindrops invisible when the car travelled at a little under 20 mph. Once the speed was increased to about 60 mph, the success rate dropped to just 20 percent.
The team said that making the prototype faster would not be a problem, but another hurdle they face is extending the range of the headlights. However, computer simulations show the system could boost the range of the headlights to 90 feet.
Although the team has found some success with their prototype, they admitted they still have a ways to go before installing the smart headlights into vehicles.
The research was presented at Microsoft Research and at Research@Intel 2012. Their paper about the work was published in the Proceedings of the IEEE Conference on Computational Photography.