Ford engineers are testing new headlight technology that could help ensure drivers literally keep their eyes on the road and make night driving easier and more comfortable.
We live in the future. Now being tested under controlled conditions in Europe, the new technology can project directions, speed limits, weather information, passing zones, pedestrian crosswalks or road signage onto the road so the driver’s gaze can remain fixed on the way ahead.
“What started as playing around with a projector light and a blank wall could take lighting technologies to a whole new level,” explains Lars Junker, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Ford of Europe. “There’s the potential now to do so much more than simply illuminate the road ahead, to help reduce the stress involved in driving at night. The driver could get essential information without ever needing to take their eyes off the road,”.
Night-time driving presents particular risks for drivers who look away from the road. For example, according to Ford officials, a vehicle travelling at 60 mph covers 82 feet per second, meaning even a short glance at the navigation on the in-car screen can result in “driving blind” for some 33 feet or more. On an unlit road, drivers can miss an important sign or a bend in the road.
Projecting information onto the road using high-resolution headlights could benefit other road users too. For instance, a crosswalk could be projected onto the road where the existing road markings are faded or unclear for both for driver and pedestrian. Other possibilities include showing a path for the driver to follow to pass cyclists at a safe distance.
The technology could provide the driver with information about changes in weather, such as snow falling, fog, slippery conditions or an icy road ahead. Integrating the headlight to the navigation system could display upcoming turns, while the width of the vehicle could be projected onto the road, helping the driver judge whether the vehicle will fit through a gap or into a parking space.