Automotive

Mercedes Maybach's new 2-megapixel headlights project images onto the road as you drive

Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light can paint all sorts of useful symbols on the road in bright, high-resolution light from the headlamps
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light can paint all sorts of useful symbols on the road in bright, high-resolution light from the headlamps
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: safe distance warning shows how close you should be following the car in front at the speed you're doing
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: safe distance warning shows how close you should be following the car in front at the speed you're doing
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: cruise control symbol pops up on the road instead of the dash
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: cruise control symbol pops up on the road instead of the dash
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: snow warning
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: snow warning
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: visual lane keeping assist
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: visual lane keeping assist
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: won't shine high beams into the window area of cars, from the front or back
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: won't shine high beams into the window area of cars, from the front or back
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: blind spot warnings can pop up on the road as well as on the wing mirrors
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: blind spot warnings can pop up on the road as well as on the wing mirrors
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: illuminates any pedestrian it detects - but only up to the chest level, so they're not dazzled
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: illuminates any pedestrian it detects - but only up to the chest level, so they're not dazzled
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: you can choose how much you want road signs to stand out
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: you can choose how much you want road signs to stand out
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: Roadworks mode shows the width of your car in front of you when the lane narrows down
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: Roadworks mode shows the width of your car in front of you when the lane narrows down
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light can paint all sorts of useful symbols on the road in bright, high-resolution light from the headlamps
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light can paint all sorts of useful symbols on the road in bright, high-resolution light from the headlamps
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: with a million 'pixels' per side, these headlights are incredibly precise
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: with a million 'pixels' per side, these headlights are incredibly precise
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: low beam
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: low beam
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: high beam illuminates everything except the windscreen area of oncoming cars
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: high beam illuminates everything except the windscreen area of oncoming cars
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: won't dazzle pedestrians
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Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: won't dazzle pedestrians

New S-Class Maybachs will soon get an impressive intelligent headlight upgrade. Digital Light puts a million pixels of resolution into each headlight, and works with the car's sensors and computers to display a bunch of driver-assist information right there on the road in front of you.

Way back in 2009, we covered the Experimental Safety Vehicle, a technology demonstrator from Mercedes-Benz showcasing some pretty out-there technological innovations for the time. Inflating seatbelt airbags, back seat cameras to show you what the kids are up to, and high-friction braking bags that inflate when you're faced with an unavoidable crash and haul the car to a halt much faster than you could with just four tires on the road.

But the one that really caught our imagination at the time was partial main beam intelligent headlights, which had 100 individually controlled LEDs built into them and interacted with sensors on the car to do things like keeping your high beams on and shining them everywhere except into the eyes of oncoming drivers. Or visually highlighting pedestrians who step out on to the road when you've got your low beams on.

Now, nearly 10 years later, Mercedes-Maybach is taking the concept to whole new levels.

Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: safe distance warning shows how close you should be following the car in front at the speed you're doing
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: safe distance warning shows how close you should be following the car in front at the speed you're doing

Digital Light, which will start rolling out on selected S-Class vehicles sometime in the next few months, gives drivers no less than 2 million pixels in their headlights, allowing incredibly fine tuning of these kinds of effects, as well as opening up the ability to light-paint the road with high-resolution symbols and markings to assist the driver.

We're talking things like big white lines representing the total width of the car, to help you figure out if you can fit through a narrow gap. Big fat arrows pointing to pedestrians that the computer figures are in danger of stepping out in front of you. A speed-sensitive distance mark showing you roughly how far you should stay back from the car in front.

Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: Roadworks mode shows the width of your car in front of you when the lane narrows down
Mercedes-Maybach's Digital Light: Roadworks mode shows the width of your car in front of you when the lane narrows down

There's also a bunch of other symbols coming; blind spot style warnings will show up on the road as chevrons pointing you back into your lane before you even go to look at the mirrors. Lane keeping symbols. Construction site and low-grip surface symbols, as well as speed symbols.

The selective high beam function has become smarter too, going out of its way only to dim the lights that would shine directly into people's faces. Digital Light will shine high beams on cars, but track and block out the front and rear windscreens, and it will illuminate pedestrians' bodies, but without assaulting their faces with bright light.

Theoretically, of course, pretty much anything could be projected in 2-megapixel black and white resolution, though rules on acceptable content will likely be quite restrictive.

Source: Daimler

8 comments
f8lee
Seems like a cute toy, but the need for it will evaporate when autonomous vehicles take over.
kwalispecial
Some of that seems obnoxious, but I can see some useful things too. One really useful projection would be a simple grid to act as a wireframe display of the road surface. It would make it a lot easier to see potholes and bumps, as well as objects in the road.
guzmanchinky
Isn't that a bit distracting? As in, having the opposite effect? Guess I'd have to try it to know.
frogola24
awesome. the ford mustang projects a horse from its side mirrors. this could be good tek,keeping your eyes on the road with more information.
sk8dad
"Get the hell out of my way...I've got more money than God." should be projected. It's more honest.
ProfessorWhat
Mark my words... there will be a video of someone hacking this and playing Pong on the autobahn.
S Michael
This will be hacked, showing a couple having sex.
Tom Swift
can't wait for it to stream Netflix vids.