Driving after dark presents a riskier proposition for drivers, as opposed to vehicle operation during daylight hours. Research conducted by Ford in the UK has found that 40% of crashes occur after sunset, despite the fact that markedly fewer people are behind the wheel at that time.
This becomes a more dangerous proposition when drivers are no longer looking at the road ahead. Just a quick peek down or over to a screen, whether an on-board navigation system or a phone, translates quickly into a situation where whomever is behind the wheel is now driving blind. On a poorly or totally unlit thoroughfare, this could mean the driver misses a street sign or worse, a curve in the pavement.
In an attempt to keep night drivers focused for safety, engineers at Ford are testing an innovative headlight technology that projects pertinent information such as speed limit, weather and directions directly onto the road ahead.
“What started as playing around with a projector light and a blank wall could take lighting technologies to a whole new level,” relates Lars Junker, features and software, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Ford of Europe. “There’s the potential now to do so much more than simply illuminate the road ahead, to help reduce the stress involved in driving at night. The driver could get essential information without ever needing to take their eyes off the road.”
OEMs have been experimenting with various kinds of heads-up displays for a long time. 2022 will see more and more new cars with this feature. Ford envisions a time when even more crucial information will be projected ahead, such as crosswalks, bicycle lanes and road markings that have been obscured by wear and weather.
With its new technology, Ford engineers are also experimenting with various levels of integration between headlights and the on-board navigation system. This might allow for even more helpful information, including calculating whether a vehicle will clear a tight squeeze, whether a bridge, tunnel or parking space.
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