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Mercedes Previews Digital Headlights

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Germans have an obsession with illumination. There is Audi who blinded the world with laser-powered headlights on the new R8, prompting Mercedes-Benz to fire back with new digital projectors. In a YouTube video uploaded recently, Formula 1 safety car driver Bernd Mayländer explains why these new digital projectors are the future of nighttime driving.

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The Black Forest is home to many of Germany’s automotive and manufacturing industries, and the dense population of ancient trees has forced new innovation in lighting and safety. The Autobahn still retains sections of unrestricted speed, so being able to overtake someone going a third slower than you can be dangerous in the dark. The world’s first high-speed motorway was critical to German supply movements in WWII, so Berlin ordered the lights to remain on 24/7. To the delight of British airmen, their nighttime raids were much easier to navigate thanks to four lanes of shining pavement.

The new HD projector technology from Mercedes-Benz uses sensors on the vehicle to identify other road users and ideally adapt the light distribution to the environment. In this process, the heads of oncoming road users can be shielded from the light beam to reliably prevent dazzling them.
The new HD projector technology from Mercedes-Benz uses sensors on the vehicle to identify other road users and ideally adapt the light distribution to the environment. In this process, the heads of oncoming road users can be shielded from the light beam to reliably prevent dazzling them.

While the video doesn’t go into detail on how the system works, it’s clearly seen that it can generate high-definition images far in front of the vehicle. With the ability to project navigation and warnings directly in the driver’s field of view, it renders contemporary HUD systems obsolete. In a bit of holiday irony, the digital projections bear a close resemblance to the LED Christmas light generators seen on every other TV commercial.

The new HD headlamp generation from Mercedes-Benz, working in combination with the navigation system, can also project direction arrows onto the road surface, to aid navigation.
The new HD headlamp generation from Mercedes-Benz, working in combination with the navigation system, can also project direction arrows onto the road surface, to aid navigation.

The system is primarily aimed at improving the safety of pedestrians and other motorists by contouring the headlight pattern in order to eliminate glare. Everyone knows someone with aftermarket HIDs who takes delight in blinding everyone in a 3-mile radius, so hopefully this will force our NHTSA to reexamine our archaic lighting laws. Brass era cars are still allowed to run carbide headlamps which are essentially acetylene torches in glass enclosures. What could go wrong there?

Without a doubt this innovative technology will leave halogen and xenon projectors in the dark, so kudos to Mercedes for leading the way in lighting.

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