New Headlight Tech Projects Traffic Signs on the Road Ahead Like a HUD

Neat tech, though it begs to ask the question: are signs more noticeable if they're reflected on the road in front of you?

Road signs are important indicators for drivers. They relay vital information that’s just as important for the safety of drivers but also pedestrians, emergency personnel, and even others like surrounding property or animals. However, if you miss a road sign, they’re pretty much useless. New technology aims to put these signs right in front of the driver at night with the aid of the car’s own headlights, similar to a head-up display.

Hyundai Mobis is responsible for the new development, which essentially uses headlights to project street signs on the road in front of the driver. The aim is to reduce accidents at night by making drivers better aware of road signage and prevailing conditions, particularly in the case of things like pedestrian crossings or roadworks.

Hyundai Mobis

The headlights rely on established projection technology commonly used in DLP projectors, in the form of the digital micromirror device, or DMD. Originally developed by Texas Instruments, DMD devices feature an array of thousands of tiny mirrors that serve as pixels in a projection display. By controlling which of the mirrors reflects light from a powerful densely-packed array of LEDs, an image can be projected ahead of the vehicle with high brightness. The projection system is built into the headlight of the vehicle.

A camera system is used to capture street signs and analyze them for redisplay by the projector. Speed limits, speed bump warnings, and construction signage can all be captured and displayed on the road surface ahead to warn the driver. GPS data can also be used to source speed limit data and information on fixed hazards, highway exits, and the like.

The system is also envisaged as a boon to pedestrians, too. In one example, a stopped car uses its projection headlights to display a virtual crosswalk on the road ahead. This could also have applications for autonomous vehicles, which could use such a method to indicate to pedestrians that it is waiting for them to cross while it remains stopped.

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Of course, much of the technology involved is already implemented in today’s vehicles. Many cars will show speed limits, school zones, and other warning signs in the gauge cluster or head-up display for the driver’s benefit. Whether projecting such signage on the road ahead is more valuable is an argument for safety advocates, but the technology remains interesting nonetheless.

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