The basics of headlights really haven’t changed all that much in the last few decades. Sure, they’ve gotten brighter, smarter, and better looking. But they still turn on to illuminate the road ahead of you. In Geneva, Mercedes is showing off what it’s calling “the future of car lighting.” It’s a new head light technology called Digital Light.
The hardware is a light with a resolution of over one million pixels per head light. Rather than blanketing the roadway with the same intensity light, the digital light adapts the lighting to your driving conditions. For example, say you’re driving at night and there is a highly reflective sign coming up. The digital light can decrease the intensity of the light that’s being sent to the reflective sign, while keeping the other parts of the road illuminated brightly. This way, the driver won’t be dazzled by the fierce reflection of the sign while trying to navigate the dark landscape around it.
Cameras in the headlights and other sensor systems help vehicle make the right decisions of what to light at what intensity. Powerful computer systems allow the data to be evaluated in milliseconds, giving lighting fast commands to the head lights to adapt.
The company says that the software-controlled digital lights can also project symbols and other shapes onto the road. This will not only give the driver information directly in their field of vision but it could also allow the car to communicate with those around it. The current symbol catalogue includes a low-grip surface symbol, construction-site, rear-end collision, lane-keeping, blind-spot and speed.
Mercedes says the technology will be entering small series production in the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class. Selected fleet customers are expected to take delivery of the first cars hooked up with the digital lights in the first half of this year.