GM working on car headlights that aim where the driver's looking
Technology is providing us with new ways to improve the way our roads are lit. Glow-in-the-dark road markings and street lights that switch on only when they detect a car are two such examples. Now, Vauxhall/Opel has unveiled a way to aim car headlights based on driver eye-tracking.
Vauxhall/Opel's existing headlight technology is known as Adaptive Forward Lighting (AFL+). It has nine specific lighting functions that include automated activation of full beam, different lighting patterns for different driving environments and aiming headlight beams around corners based on a car's steering.
The firm is also getting ready to roll-out a new "LED matrix light system." This monitors for light sources from oncoming vehicles and deactivates specific LEDs in the matrix cluster to avoid dazzling other road users.
According to Vauxhall/Opel, its eye-tracking system has been in development for around two years. In addition to adjusting the direction of headlight beams, it can reportedly adjust beam intensity, too.
The system employs a camera that's used to monitor prominent points on a driver's face, such as the nose and eyes, in order to help detect line of sight. In addition, peripheral infra-red sensors and central photo-diodes are used, which allow the system to scan the driver’s eyes more than 50 times per second in dusk and night-time conditions.
Vauxhall/Opel says that some work was required to optimize the system, as the initial recording rate of the camera and calculation of the data together were too slow. This was resulting in too slow a headlight reaction. With this problem tackled, the developers say that the headlight actuators can react instantaneously on both horizontal and vertical planes.
Another issue that needed addressing was the natural tendency for a driver's eyes to dart around, resulting in the erratic movement of headlight beams. This was combated using an algorithm that delayed the response to some extent and resulted in a smoother movement of headlight beams.
The Vauxhall/Opel reports that the eye-tracking headlight system will work with any driver behind the wheel without the need to be calibrated.
It remains a research project at present, and Vauxhall/Opel tells Gizmag that it hopes to roll the system out in the long-term. The LED matrix light system, however, is expected to be introduced within 18 months.