Ford lighting tech spotlights pedestrians, animals, turns

The advanced lighting system uses cameras to read traffic signs, infrared sensors to identify living obstacles, and GPS to keep the navigation route illuminated.

Ford has previewed several lighting innovations that could eventually be used for production vehicles.

Referred to as camera-based front lighting, the technology builds upon Ford's adaptive front lighting system and traffic sign recognition technology. The latest system takes advantage of infrared cameras and GPS integration to further improve safety while driving at night.

Infrared cameras in the front grille are capable of simultaneously identifying and tracking up to eight pedestrians, cyclists or large animals. The system engages two 'spotlights' on the highest-priority targets, illuminating the hazard and placing a directional stripe on the road surface. The targets are also presented on the infotainment display, marked in a red or yellow frame.

Aside from surprise obstacles in the road, the system also attempts to better illuminate the road ahead. GPS provides a way to predict topography, enabling the lighting to move with bends and dips. Cameras track traffic signs or serve as an alternative to GPS-based monitoring of road features.

"Camera-Based Advanced Front Lighting can help make it easier for the driver to travel at night in unfamiliar surroundings, and to more easily see unexpected hazards," said Ford Europe lighting research engineer Michael Koherr. "At roundabouts, for example, our system helps the driver to clearly see the exits - and check if cyclists and pedestrians are crossing the road."

Several automakers are currently working on similar technology, including BMW's Iconic Lights concept. Ford suggests the camera-based features will be available for customers "in the near term," though no specific launch details have been announced.

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