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Ford wants to make headlights much smarter

Headlights are a simple but essential tool for driving at night or in dangerous conditions, but even they have limitations. Perhaps not for long, though, as Ford wants to make them smarter.

Ford’s Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting System aims to make night driving safer using three different methods.

The first involves widening the beam of light at junctions and roundabouts so you have a wider area of visibility and are therefore less likely to pull out in front of a fast approaching vehicle. It also makes it easier to see the exit you want to take.

There’s also something called Spot Lighting, which uses two special LED lamps next to the fog lights to alert the driver to a pedestrian, cyclist or animal by projecting a spot and stripe on the road surface so they are brighter and easier to see. Meanwhile a screen inside the car highlights the hazard with a red or yellow frame, depending on how close it is.

Spot Lighting uses infra-red to track up to eight objects simultaneously up to a range of 120 metres – and that includes animals ranging from as small as a large dog. It is in the pre-development phase and is being developed at Ford’s Aachen Research and Innovation Centre.

Going a step further, the headlights can even illuminate corners and dips as you drive along, thanks to the use of GPS information. If that information is unavailable, it can also use a front-facing camera and the rear-view mirror to use road markings to predict the curvature of the road.

Just to really enhance the headlight’s usefulness, data gathered by the front headlights can be stored in the navigation system, allowing them to learn and automatically adapt the next time you drive the same route.

Ford Research and Advanced Engineering vice president Ken Washington said: “Many people who drive at night have had to quickly react to someone or something suddenly appearing in the road – as if from nowhere.

“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.”

We have approached Ford to find out how long it will be before the technologies filter down into production cars, building on the Dynamic LED, Glare-Free Highbeam and Auto High Beam systems already available in cars like the new Mondeo.

Ford recently revealed a system that stops you from breaking the speed limit.

Update: Ford declined to comment on when we will see the new headlight system.

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