Ford is developing a new headlight technology that can illuminate individual hazards and obstacles and that uses GPS coordinates to better illuminate the road ahead.
Like all leading automakers, Ford already offers adaptive headlight technology on its cars that automatically dips so as not to dazzle oncoming cars and which can shine ‘around' cars in front for a clearer view of the road ahead.
However, the new camera-based system will take things up a notch. For example, the existing system can direct a headlight beam based on the steering wheel's movements, but the next-generation system will use GPS so it will know there is a bend or a junction and illuminate it before the driver has reacted.
And when no GPS data is available, the system uses a further camera mounted in the rearview mirror to understand the undulations of the road and save them to memory so that the next time the car is traveling along the same route, the headlights already know where to shine.
"Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting can help make it easier for the driver to travel at night in unfamiliar surroundings, and to more easily see unexpected hazards. At roundabouts, for example, our system helps the driver to clearly see the exits -- and check if cyclists and pedestrians are crossing the road," said Michael Koherr, research engineer, Lighting Systems, Ford of Europe.
Ford expects this feature to be ready "in the near term" but it is also working on a complementary infra-red guided spotlighting system which is just moving into the pre-development phase. It is designed to monitor the road ahead and the areas parallel to it at distances of up to 120m in search of potential obstacles or hazards.
"Spot Lighting makes potential hazards in the road ahead more easily visible to the driver -- whether that is a pedestrian, a cyclist, or even a large animal," said Koherr.
It can track up to eight obstacles at a time and can spotlight the two biggest potential hazards. The objects are also displayed on the car's dashboard screen and marked in yellow or red based on proximity and potential danger.
"Many people who drive at night have had to quickly react to someone or something suddenly appearing in the road -- as if from nowhere," said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "Ford's Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting System and Spot Lighting help ensure the driver is quickly alerted to people or animals that could present a danger."