Car headlamps 'make rain invisible'
Published 25/04/2013 | 16:36
Car headlights that make rain "invisible" for drivers are under development and could save lives on the roads.
Developers hope their brainchild will reduce the number of accidents by improving visibility for motorists in treacherous conditions so they can effectively see through rain.
The hi-tech lights are programmed to detect water droplets and "dis-illuminate" them as they fall - with the result that the driver is far less distracted and can focus on the road.
The "See Through Rain" technology works like a projector rather than a traditional single bulb headlight found in today's cars.
Currently when a beam shines on a dark road during a downpour, it illuminates raindrops which can distract a driver. The new technology relies on a digital camera to establish a drop's location.
Software then predicts where that drop will fall within the driver's field of view and light rays from the headlight that would usually illuminate it are turned off for an "imperceptible fraction of a second".
This reduces the glare and leaves only the beams of light which travel uninterrupted between the falling rain, snow or hail.
John Tomkins, an engineer at technology firm Intel, said: "When you eliminate the reflection from the rain, then you are able to see through the rain and see the road much more clearly. I would hope this could save lives on the roads though obviously the rain is still hitting your windscreen."
In the worst thunder storm, a motorist in a car travelling at around 20 mph would notice a 70% improvement in visibility using the prototype developed by Intel and Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, USA.
The system becomes less accurate at faster speeds but creators say it would still have a marked improvement on visibility. Developers hope the technology could be fitted in cars within a decade.