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New Mercedes Benz Digital Headlights Project Images On the Road

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【Summary】Mercedes Benz has developed high-resolution digital headlights that can project a snowflake symbol on the road ahead in icy conditions, or project a direction arrow on the roadway, letting a driver know where to turn next while using GPS—without having to take their eyes off the road.

Eric Walz    Mar 06, 2018 1:53 PM PT
New Mercedes Benz Digital Headlights Project Images On the Road
author: Eric Walz   

Imagine driving down an icy road at night, unsure of what lies ahead. Mercedes Benz now has an innovative solution to help drivers in this and other dicey situations. The automaker has developed a new, high-resolution digital headlight that can project a snowflake symbol on the road ahead in icy conditions, or project a direction arrow on the roadway, letting a driver know where to turn next while using GPS—without having to take their eyes off the road.

Mercedes calls the technology Digital Light, and the new headlights incorporate a high-definition main beam, capable of projecting images on the road using two-million-pixels of resolution.

Last month at the European Auto Show is Brussels, Mercedes showed off the latest version of its luxury Maybach-branded S-Class and the company announced that its new image-projecting headlights will debut in the upmarket sedan.

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Mercedes says the images can be used like a head-up display, giving drivers information without requiring them to take their eyes off the road. The headlights could also be used to communicate with others, such as letting a pedestrian know it is safe to cross the street in front of a stationary car.

The new headlights feature chips that work with over one million micromirrors inside the light assembly, providing more than two million mirrors 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 uses the image data to calculate in real time the brightness value for each one of the two million pixels.

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"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 headlights were developed by Mercedes-Benz in collaboration with two partner companies and it is a good example of the internal cooperation between the Daimler research and the passenger car development on the road to mass production.

The more practical reason to use software-controlled headlights is to optimize lighting depending on the situation. On a vehicle equipped with Digital Lights, cameras, sensors, and mapping data are used to evaluate road conditions, allowing the car to adjust its headlights accordingly. This would make it easier to see objects at night, without blinding other drivers with overly bright lights.

Although the headlights look high-tech in the new Maybach, Mercedes says the focus is more on safety than aesthetics. For example, lane markers could be projected onto the road to make it easier to drive through a narrow construction zone. Or if the car detects a pedestrian in the road, it could mark their position with a lighted arrow.

Mercedes says the lights will also be able to project symbols that give blind spot warnings, lane departure warnings, collision warnings, speed notifications, and low-grip surface alerts in wintery conditions.

Mercedes says its Digital Light will only be available on the Mercedes-Maybach S-Class beginning in the first half of this year. However, if the initial roll-out goes well, this technology may be offered in more affordable, mainstream Mercedes Benz models.

There's no word yet on pricing for the digital headlight option.

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