Ford High-Resolution Headlights Provide a New Kind of Augmented Reality

Rather than projecting data onto a head-up display, Ford’s high-resolution headlights can project it onto the road itself.

Dan Carney, Senior Editor

August 17, 2022

2 Min Read
High-resolution headlights can project a warning of weather conditions ahead.Image courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford’s new augmented reality high-resolution headlight technology is demonstrating its ability to project information for drivers directly onto the road ahead. The lights can show symbols for highway signs and driving conditions without drawing the driver’s eyes from the road.

The system can show information about changes in weather, such as falling snow, slippery conditions, and ice on the road. Connecting the lights to the navigation system would let them project arrows for turns onto the road surface. And when squeezing through a narrow gap, as when parking, the lights could project an image of the car’s width, indicating whether or not it will fit through.

Unlike a head-up display, these lights can also convey information to people outside the car. That could be the projection of a crosswalk onto the road where markings are unclear. It could also show the car’s path around cyclists, ensuring the car passes at a safe distance.

“What started as playing around with a projector light and a blank wall could take lighting technologies to a whole new level,” said 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.”

Related:NHTSA Finally Clears Advanced Headlights for the US

Ford isn’t discussing the specific technology employed, but Chinese researchers published their study of this technology [High-Resolution Pixel LED Headlamps: Functional Requirement Analysis and Research Progress] in the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute journal and concluded that micro-LED technology is the best choice for high-resolution pixel headlamps. “With a small lens and module package, it can provide very comfortable and efficient lighting for roads at night to meet today’s headlight design requirements,” they wrote. “In addition to lighting, this system can also provide some basic image projection functions, such as highlighting simple patterns, information, and driving-related obstacles for the driver.”

The legality of having cars’ lights do this is something to be sorted out with government regulators while Ford continues to develop the technology, so for now it is only a prototype system in testing. But its potential value is obvious, so hopefully, this won’t take too long.


About the Author(s)

Dan Carney

Senior Editor, Design News

Dan’s coverage of the auto industry over three decades has taken him to the racetracks, automotive engineering centers, vehicle simulators, wind tunnels, and crash-test labs of the world.

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