Night time driving made everyone once wished of controlling your headlight with a move of your eyes, Am I right?? This Sci-Fi could be reality soon… Carmaker Opel is developing a technology that controls direction and brightness of the vehicle’s headlights by tracking the driver’s eyes. The new technology will allow a driver to control the direction and brightness of a vehicle’s headlamp with eye movements.
With its eye-tracking technology, Opel presents the future of situation-appropriate lighting and a third generation of automotive adaptive lighting,
They used a simple webcam first. This is in contrast to high-performance eye-tracking systems which required 5 to 10 cameras. Focused on the driver’s head, it scanned prominent points, such as the nose and eyes, to detect movement and thereby the driver’s line of sight. The system then translated the information gathered into data commands for electronically-controlled actuators, which quickly aligned the vehicle’s headlamp projectors. Though this approach yielded quite promising results, it turned out that the huge amounts of data could not be processed fast enough, and the recording rate of the webcam was also too slow to meet the demanding requirements of road traffic conditions.
According to Ingolf Schneider, Opel’s Director of Lighting Technology, the firm has “been pursuing this concept of controlling the direction and intensity of light based on where the driver is looking for around two years. The more we understand the benefits of this technology, the more intensively we push ahead with our joint project.”
The problem of slow processing was addressed by optimisation of the camera’s operating parameters and the adaptation of the eye-tracking algorithm. The camera is now equipped with peripheral infra-red sensors and central photodiodes which together enable it to scan the driver’s eyes more than 50 times per second in dusk and night. And with much faster data processing and transmission, the headlamp actuators react instantaneously to make both horizontal and vertical adjustments.
The system has light settings for play streets, motorways and bad weather, and adjusts the settings automatically, controlled by the camera. Additional functions are dynamic cornering light and turning light. Direction and intensity of the light beam are controlled according to the angle of lock and vehicle speed. The high-beam assistant, another functionality of the AFL+ system, automatically switches from high beam to low beam if forward-looking the camera detects the lights of a vehicle ahead.
I know you are thinking of this question: Would the system reflect eye movements? It is because the human eye unknowingly “jumps” around all the time and the cone of light would move hectically. Hence, if the headlamps were allowed to follow this movement precisely, the vehicle’s light cone would jerk around needlessly. The engineers solved this issue by developing sophisticated delay algorithm which ensures a suitably flowing movement for the light cone. “Another major benefit is that the eye-tracker doesn’t have to be individually calibrated for a particular driver. The system works perfectly with anyone behind the wheel, no matter what their size”, adds Schneider.
Even if the driver is momentarily distracted from looking at the road ahead, lighting is always provided in the direction of travel. That’s because the low beam of the headlamps is programmed to ensure sufficient illumination. A Light and Visibility Pack also includes automatic low beam lighting, together with tunnel recognition. With this array of automatic lighting functions, AFL+ not only improves the visibility of one’s own vehicle but also reduces driver stress and night-time drowsiness.
Current-generation vehicles are equipped with the AFL+ adaptive headlight system, which already offers up to 10 lighting functions controlled by a frontal camera. AFL+ also includes functions such as dynamic curve light, cornering light and a high beam light assistant that automatically switches the headlights to low beam whenever a forward-facing camera, located on the reverse of the rear-view mirror, detects the proximity of headlights or tail-lights of other vehicles. For example, the light cone of a xenon headlamp is automatically adapted to different traffic situations as well as road and weather conditions, with variable light distribution within urban areas and country roads.
This eye-tracking technology however will only be introduced in the future. Engineers at Opel are also planning to implement new matrix LED headlights in the near future. LED matrix lighting system will allow glare-free constant high beam lighting and automatically adapts to the respective traffic situation. The eye-tracking tech will be used jointly with matrix LED headlights. In this way, the LED matrix light functions with the Opel Eye front camera. When light sources are detected from oncoming or preceding traffic, individual LEDs in the relevant zone are deactivated, while the rest of the road remains brightly illuminated. It’s expected to debut in the next 18 months. It’s a cool piece of future tech that promises to improve the way car headlights work by tracking the driver’s eyes and directing the beam very precisely.