NOISE-CANCELLING HEADLIGHTS

Will Dunn, for whom today is just another day — a long, long time ago

Driving at night, with the rain streaming towards your windscreen out of the blackness and the muffled whoosh of water under your wheels, it can feel like you’re in a movie. A movie in which you’re a lone FBI agent driving to a disused truck stop in the middle of Nowhere, Illinois to get sensitive documents from a man with no name. Until the plot suddenly changes, that is, and you’re in a movie in which you play a wet, frightened person who’s just driven their mum’s car into the back of a lorry.

The problem is that while the headlights on the front of your car do a great job of illuminating the road in front of you, they also light up the falling rain, creating a shimmering curtain of bright specks that gets in the way of the hazards you need to see. Not for much longer, however. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have been working in collaboration with Intel to develop a headlight that is more like a combined camera and projector. The camera tracks the individual raindrops (or snow-flakes in winter), passes this information to the processor, which tells the projector to black out the pixels where each raindrop is, and display bright white everywhere else. The result is a headlight that makes rain invisible.

As I see it, though, that’s just the beginning of smart headlight skills. With a pair of powerful projectors on the front of your car, you’d surely have the makings of a go-anywhere, 3D, drive-in cinema. All you need is a bedsheet. Just don’t beam Fast and Furious 6 on to the back of a moving lorry, eh?

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