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Ford's smart lights can 'spot' animals

2015-07-20 10:57

LIGHTING THE WAY: Ford's new lighting technology could save lives as it's capable of detecting pedestrians, cyclists and animals on the road at night. Image: Newspress

  • New headlight technology
  • New lighting interprets traffic signs
  • Lighting system 'remembers' roads
  • Detects walkers, cyclists, animals

AACHEN, Germany - Driving at night, particularly on unlit roads, can be a nerve-racking experience. Ford is developing new lighting technologies that will help drivers to identify potential hazards, including pedestrians, cyclists and animals.

Ford’s camera-based 'advanced front lighting system' can widen beams at junctions and traffic circles to better illuminate hazards outside the direction of travel.

New spotlighting technology helps draw the driver’s attention to pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals ahead.

LIFE-SAVING TECH

Ford's vice-president of research and advanced engineering, Ken Washington, said:  “Many people who drive at night have had to quickly react to someone or something suddenly appearing in the road – as if from nowhere.

“Ford’s advanced front lighting system and spotlighting help to ensure the driver is quickly alerted to people or animals.”

VIDEO: Ford's new headlights spots hazards in the dark

Spotlighting – currently in the pre-development phase with Ford engineers in Aachen, Germany – uses infra red-sensitive camera in the grille that simultaneously locates and tracks as many as eight people and bigger animals, including larger dogs, as far as 120m away.

The spots build on Ford’s AFLS and traffic-sign recognition (already used in Ford vehicles) to provide drivers with improved visibility at traffic circles, stop and yield signs.

IT CAN ‘REMEMBER’ ROADS

The system uses GPS to better illuminate bends and dips on a chosen route. Where GPS information is not available the technology uses a video camera mounted in the rear-view mirror to detect lane markings and predict road curvature, using the information to illuminate the area more effectively.

In a further evolutionary step, in those instances, the camera stores the information in the satnav system. When the driver uses the same road again the headlights will 'remember' the road.

The system can highlight two hazards for the driver illuminated by two special lamps next to the fog lights. The highlighted objects are displayed on a screen, marked in a red or yellow frame according to the proximity of the object and the potential danger.

Ford Europe lighting systems engineer Michael Koherr said: “Camera-based advanced front lighting can make it easier for a driver at night in unfamiliar surroundings.

“At a traffic circle, for example, the system helps to define the exits – and check if cyclists and pedestrians are crossing. Spotlighting makes potential hazards more visible - pedestrian, cyclist, even a large animal.”

Systems currently available in Ford vehicles:

Dynamic LED headlights - Adjusts the headlights' beam and intensity to match the driving environment.

Glare-free high-beam - Detects vehicles ahead and fades-out light that could dazzle oncoming drivers, while retaining maximum illumination for other areas.

Auto high-beam - Detects oncoming vehicles and automatically switches to dipped beams. Main beams restored when the vehicle passes.


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