The tech innovates on current adaptive headlights, too.
Headlight technology is progressing incredibly rapidly lately as automakers find increasingly sophisticated ways to illuminate the road with LEDs and lasers, and a new software innovation called Digital Light from Mercedes-Benz could make driving at night even safer by not dazzling other folks on the road. The company is already testing this tech on the road as on November 2016 and plans to put it into production in the future.
Digital Light uses an HD headlight chip with over one million controllable micromirrors on each side of the vehicle. In addition, software processes data from the cameras and radar that Mercedes already uses. By combining these systems, Digital Light can identify other road users and fade the light so as not to affect the other person’s vision.
Adaptive headlights that can prevent dazzling other people on the road are already available from tech like Audi’s Active Matrix LEDs. However, Digital Light goes even further. The huge number of controllable light sources let Mercedes’ tech display messages on the road. For example, when arriving to a stop sign at night, the system could project that image onto the road as a helpful reminder to drivers. It could also display a zebra crossing on the street as a way to let pedestrians know you are letting them cross.
Digital Light could be a big help to European drivers when it arrives, but regulations in the United States could keep the system off the road there. The National Highway Traffic Safety prevents innovations like Audi’s adaptive headlights from coming to market because of an outdated regulation mandates certain lighting patterns and mandates that drivers must be able to switch between high- and low-beams.
There are signs that headlights in the U.S. might improve soon. For example, Audi is the first automaker in the country with permission to sell a model with laser-powered high beams. In addition, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is now including a satisfactory headlight rating as a criterion for earning a Top Safety Pick+ award starting with 2017 model year vehicles. The agency started the new testing after finding NHTSA’s rules allowed for far too much variation in illumination.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz Digital Light headlights
Revolution in headlamp technology: Mercedes shines in HD quality: DIGITAL LIGHT": dazzle-free continuous main beam in the Mercedes: precision with resolution of more than 2 million pixels
"DIGITAL LIGHT" creates significant safety bonus when driving at night. The software-controlled light facilitates pioneering driver assistance, performance and communication.
Stuttgart. For the Mercedes developers the future of car light lies in dazzle-free main beam in HD quality. The revolutionary headlamp technology shines with maximum performance and facilitates communication and pioneering driver assistance. The new HD headlamp generation from Mercedes-Benz features chips that work with over one million micromirrors, i.e. more than two million in total per vehicle. The intelligent control logic required for the dynamic light functions was developed by Mercedes-Benz itself. Algorithms receive detailed information about the surroundings from the vehicle sensors, and from it calculate in real time the brightness value for each one of over two million pixels. This dynamism and precision gives this intelligent system well-nigh countless possibilities to provide ideal, high-resolution light distribution which suits the surrounding conditions perfectly. "The decisive factor is not the technology in the headlamp but the digital intelligence behind it", stresses Gunter Fischer, Head of Exterior Body Development and Vehicle Operating Systems at Daimler AG. The innovation was developed by Mercedes-Benz in collaboration with two partner companies and it is a good example of the intern cooperation between the Daimler research and the passenger car development on the road to start of production.
Sensors, such as cameras or radar, detect other road users and powerful computers evaluate the data as well as digital cards in milliseconds and give the headlamps the commands for adapting the light distribution in all situations. These efforts yield optimum vision for the driver without dazzling other road users as well as innovative functions with added safety. "With our "DIGITAL LIGHT" strategy we are not only striving for beam records, rather we want to achieve optimum vision and maximum brightness without glare. Innovative functions for supporting the driver and staging communication with other road users significantly optimise safety when driving at night", emphasises Gunter Fischer.
Mercedes-Benz does not only want to achieve the ideal light distribution for every driving situation with "DIGITAL LIGHT", but guide and support the driver in a targeted manner in critical situations such as driving through narrow roadworks. Additionally it will be possible to project light traces onto the road to replace missing road markings. Moreover digital light systems can also beam messages like direction arrows or warnings onto the road. Via "DIGITAL LIGHT" the car will also communicate with other road users in future: for example, symbols or a zebra crossing for pedestrians can be projected. "DIGITAL LIGHT" thus delivers important contributions towards traffic safety and modules on the road to accident-free and autonomous driving – as an integral component of the overall INTELLIGENT DRIVE strategy. What was unveiled in 2015 in the research vehicle F015 as a vision has now been implemented in demo vehicles and will be on the road in the near future.
The headlamp becomes a projector The new headlamp in HD quality provides a chip working with over a million micro-mirrors. The light is split up into tiny pixels. The smaller these light pixels become the better the system can react to different situations, the more precisely objects and passers-by can be illuminated and simultaneously individual areas can be faded out or dimmed in a targeted manner. The requisite intelligent actuation logic was developed by Mercedes-Benz. This creates an optimum view for the driver, without dazzling other road users.
In the future Mercedes-Benz will use its newly developed HD software light distribution as part of "DIGITAL LIGHT" with two hardware headlamp systems:
For maximum resolution and performance Mercedes-Benz is using more than a million light points per HD headlamp with a new type of projection technology. Animated by high-current light-emitting diodes, over two million micro-mirrors in total radiate onto the road surface – each mirror can be moved individually. Initial prototypes are already installed in demonstration vehicles and were presented to the general public in November 2016 as part of night-time journeys.
Presented in October 2016, the new, highly efficient and very compact LED chip from the joint research project µAFS will be found in Mercedes-Benz vehicles in the foreseeable future. Four light points, each with 1024 individually actuatable LED chips, are installed per headlamp here. This adds up to 8192 individually actuatable light pixels per vehicle.