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Ford makes headlights smarter

New technology varies light intensity and aim to better illuminate road and potential hazards.

Published: July 17, 2015, 6:00 AM
Updated: April 29, 2018, 2:26 PM

Ford advanced lighting technology

Ford is combining several technologies to make headlights work more smartly when they are needed most.

Using a camera at the front of the car, infrared detection, the GPS and traffic signal recognition, the new headlight technology can vary light intensity and aim to better illuminate the road and potential hazards for safer night-time driving.

“Many people who drive at night have had to quickly react to someone or something suddenly appearing in the road – as if from nowhere,” said Ken Washington, vice president, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. “Ford’s Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting System and Spot Lighting help ensure the driver is quickly alerted to people or animals that could present a danger.”

Ford’s Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting System builds on adaptive front lighting and traffic-sign recognition systems (already available in Ford vehicles) to read route signs and automatically widen the beam at unlit intersections or roundabouts in order to better illuminate hazards that are not directly in front of the vehicle.

Ford Advanced Lighting sign detection

“Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting can help make it easier for the driver to travel at night in unfamiliar surroundings, and to more easily see unexpected hazards. At roundabouts, for example, our system helps the driver to clearly see the exits – and check if cyclists and pedestrians are crossing the road,” said Michael Koherr, research engineer, Lighting Systems, Ford of Europe.

The technology also works with the navigation system to read the route and remember what it has previously done in lighting the same route. Where GPS information is not available, the camera mounted in the interior rearview mirror reads lane markings to gauge the flow of the road and adapt lighting in bends, dips and rises as needed (and stores it to the navigation system for future reference).

The new Spot Lighting technology uses an infrared camera in the front grille to help draw the driver’s attention to pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals in the vehicle’s path or on the road’s shoulders. It can detect and track up to eight hazards simultaneously at a range of 120 metres. The two closest obstacles are spotlighted by LED lamps next to the foglights and displayed on the display screen in the cabin.

The technology was developed at Ford’s European Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany, and is expected to be available on production vehicles in the near future.

Other lighting systems currently available in Ford vehicles include Dynamic LED Headlights (which combines full-LED headlamps offering daylight-mimicking light clarity with Ford’s Adaptive Front Lighting System to adjust the headlight beam angle and intensity to match the driving environment), Glare-Free Highbeam technology (which detects vehicles ahead and fades out light that could dazzle oncoming drivers, while retaining maximum illumination for other areas) and Auto High Beam Control (which detects oncoming vehicles and automatically dips the beam until the oncoming vehicle has passed).