BLINDED BY DIM BULBS
SHEDDING LIGHT ON A GREAT IDEA
If you drive at night, you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into situations where your hand flies up in front of your face.
“Yikes, I can’t SEE!”.
People forget to lower their high beams, giving oncoming drivers a glaring face full of bright light. On a foggy, twisty mountain road, a high beam can be temporarily blinding. If you get down in one piece, it isn’t because of your incredible skill. It is because of your incredible luck.
Night driving is three times as dangerous as driving during the day (The National Council on Highway Safety).
Robert Tamburo (Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute) has an answer. A “smart headlight” which he will be showing off at the European Conference on Computer Vision in Zurich. Sensors in the headlight track cars, drivers, snow flakes, and rain drops. The system blocks light that would otherwise shine in your eyes, while lighting up the rest of the roadway. It keeps light from bouncing around on snow/rain particles. Tambur’s headlight uses fast computer processing to model the “road space”. The light doesn’t come from a bulb; instead, it comes from a DLP device with an array of “cells” which work together to make up the beam. The cells are constantly switched on or off to perfectly protect the vision of other drivers and light the road. Along with lots of other stuff that will show up soon, Tamburo “smart headlight” should completely change how we drive.
What does MISTER ScienceAintSoBad think?
ScienceAintSoBad Rating for a smart headlight = 10. To drivers in the near future, today’s cars will seem like “death traps”.
For good reason .
OH MY GOD! A STEERING WHEEL.
HOPE YOU LIKE BEING A PASSENGER
Might as well make it official.
We got driverless cars swerving all over the road around here already, right? Texting. Arguing about last night. Looking up whatzisname’s address. Why would we care if the driver hands the wheel over to a computer? How could it be LESS safe?
Here’s the thing.
Google – the very same Google that took you here? – Google has been testing “autonomous” or driverless vehicles for years. Safe as yoghurt. The only collision? A rear ender when the Google car was stopped at a light. Even Apple couldn’t hold THAT against the Don’t Be Evil guys.
Am I pulling your chain?
I am not.
The autonomous vehicle is around the corner. (Corner. Get it?). And we could see the first models in a couple of years.
Nevada (Nic Halverson, Discovery News) just changed its laws to let these things drive around the state. Appropriately, this makes Nevada the first state to take the high stakes bet.
The biggest hurdle isn’t the technology. It’s the other stuff. It’s whether I’m ready to let my car take the wheel. It’s whether I’m willing to let YOUR car take the wheel. It’s the law’s adjusting to accidents where nobody’s-to-blame-but-the-machine. It’s how fast a “driverless” decides to go in a 65 MPH zone? Does it break the law a little bit? Make reasonable judgements? Cling to 65 MPH and piss off all the other drivers?
The scramble is on to figure out what we want from this new technology. It’s coming at us faster than you think. Can the laws get out of the way fast enough? What about you? Are you good with this? Or are you still an old fashioned kinda human who doesn’t trust a machine at highway speeds.
Mister ScienceAintSoBad thinks your next car may have a little gadget in it that you didn’t expect. A driving machine.
Buckle up for safety.
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Image credits to the film Vacancy with Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale which has nothing whatsover to do with driverless cars.