There are some incredible technological strides being made to improve road safety, but the key to avoiding accidents remains the same: seeing what's ahead. Unfortunately, avoiding potentially dangerous situations before they pose a threat can be difficult on well sighted roads during the day, let alone at unlit junctions after the sun sets. To try and give drivers a better chance of avoiding hazards, Ford is developing headlight technology that widens the beam at junctions and detects pedestrians and animals.
Ford's prototype system relies on a front-mounted camera, which works in tandem with GPS information to better illuminate bends and dips along a route. When GPS signal isn't available, the system uses a camera mounted behind the rear view mirror to detect lane markings and illuminate around corners. The system will also remember route data, so next time you drive along that same road the car will know how to best light the way.
The car's camera system is also able to directly spotlight hazards with two special LED lamps positioned next to the fog lights. The objects that the system picks up are highlighted in red and yellow on the screen inside, depending on how close they are to the car. This spotlighting tech uses an infra-red camera mounted in the grille that detects the body heat of up to eight people or large animals at a range of 120 meters (394 feet). These LEDs are also used to light the exits of junctions and roundabouts.
It's not just Ford working on safer lighting technology. Mercedes' new E-Class will offer optional headlamps with 84 LEDs that allow full-beam to be used without blinding oncoming drivers, while Audi and BMW have been testing laser headlamps that are significantly brighter than traditional xenon or LED options.
Ford expects the GPS-based lighting technology to be available for customers in the near future, but there's no word as yet as to when the infra-red spotlighting tech will hit the streets.
Ford's video below shows the new headlight tech in action.