A Multi-Beam Smart Solution To Driving At Night In A Snow Storm

Sitting outside under a clear blue sky with rather too large an area of pink collectors of solar UV laid out to supply energy for my vitamin D manufactories and aiding my digestion of sugars, starch and a smidge of protein with sufficient ethanol to aid the solubilization of lipids, I noticed how one could see for ever. At least until the horizon haze introduces ambiguity.

 All this is very different from the winter scene with large rain drops or giant snow flakes leisurely falling and limiting your vision as drive to the late night pharmacy for a cold cure.

The problem with driving at night is that things in the air scatter the valuable light from your beams sending a lot back to you and preventing the remainder backscattering from objects in your path. The amount of light scattered is the product of the size and number density of those pesky things in the air in front of you. Large drifting snowflakes, for example, shut you off in a small visual cocoon.

Now Discovery News reviews a promising attack plan published by Carnegie-Mellon (1,2). The work is from Narasimhan’s group and is providing a multi-beam smart solution. The essence is that the headlight projects light beams and receives images of backscattering from pesky things like snowflakes. This is a smart solution remember, so a computer assesses the rate of fall of the flake and projects other beams above or below it.

This works fine with one or a few drops and simulation of higher numbers look very promising for extending the range of vision when the skies are falling.  Currently the response time is 13 milliseconds and that has to be speeded up as the larger number of bits falling from the sky, the closer they are together and the shorter the time available to process and flip the beam.

Hey, who knows, maybe we’ll have smart flashlights connected to our smartphones.

  1. http://news.discovery.com/autos/smart-headlights-120705.html
  2. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/%7EILIM/projects/IL/smartHeadlight/

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