Ford researches 'intelligent' lighting systems

  • 20-Aug-2015 11:12 EDT
Ford08-15 Aachen lighting Michael Koherr.jpg

Ford lighting systems' engineer Michael Koherr says the company is considering a "pool of ideas" regarding value-for-money advanced lighting technology.

Ford is developing a camera-based advanced technology lighting system that can automatically widen dipped beams at road junctions and roundabouts. The company is also researching infrared image triggered spotlighting to illuminate pedestrians and large animals in the road ahead. An intelligent GPS linked system is on Ford’s illuminating research technology list, too.

“We believe our new systems will offer more than others on the market,” said Michael Koherr, Lighting Systems Engineer at Ford of Europe’s Research and Innovation Center at Aachen, Germany.

Ford is currently considering what he terms “a pool of ideas” that could lead to possible value-for-money production systems.

Achieving that value will be partly via the use of the company’s existing off-the-shelf lighting systems but with enhanced software capability. Explained Koherr: “We already have forward-view cameras for lane keeping, pedestrian detection, and traffic sign recognition. Now we are developing a special algorithm for the camera system. The cost to the end user will be relatively low because the main area of development is the actuator software.

“At roundabouts, our beam widening system helps the driver to clearly see the exits and check if cyclists and pedestrians are crossing the road,” he added.

The spotlighting IR system, which is now in pre-development phase, uses a camera positioned in the front grille of the car that can simultaneously track up to eight potential hazards (people and/or large animals) at a maximum range of up 120 m (395 ft).

The spotlight can then illuminate two hazards, placing a spot and a stripe on the road surface, illuminated by two LED lamps positioned adjacent to the car’s fog lights. These highlighted objects are simultaneously displayed on the car’s infotainment screen, marked (according to proximity and perceived danger) in a red or yellow frame.

The GPS linked camera system, now being researched, has a learning capability. Information about previously driven routes builds up a stored knowledge base. When a route is driven more than once, the car’s lighting system can anticipate bends and specific features such as sudden dips, to activate optimum lighting levels and functions. “The more a driver travels a particular road, the more accurate the data becomes,” added Koherr.

The advanced lighting systems already used by Ford, and on which the new capabilities will be based, include dynamic LED headlights, which combine full LED systems via adaptive front lighting. This adjusts the headlight beam angle and intensity to match the driving environment. The system can choose one of seven settings dependent on vehicle speed, ambient lighting conditions, steering angle, distance to the vehicle ahead, and windshield wiper activation.

Ford also offers glare-free high beam technology for the adaptive LED lights, which detects vehicles ahead and reduces light (effectively dipping) that could dazzle oncoming drivers, but provide maximum illumination outside that sector.

Ford’s Auto High Beam Control for non-adaptive LED lights detects oncoming vehicles and automatically switches to dipped beam.

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