The problem with driving in the rain at night is not that headlights aren't bright enough. They're actually too bright, the reflections off the raindrops momentarily blinding the driver.
Some folks smarter than us at Carnegie Mellon have figured out a way to minimize the reflection effect using some pretty high-tech gear. They combined cameras and computers to predict the trajectory of each rain drop. That's impressive enough right there. But how does that help improve visibility in dark, rainy conditions?
"If you know where the rain drops are, you can sort of stream light between them," says lead researcher Srinivasa Narasimhan. This statement, as you might imagine, garners healthy giggles from the audience. But that's exactly what these scientists have achieved.
In place of automotive headlights, these researchers used Digital Light Processing chips to shine light between rain drops. At about 18 mph, they've been able to reduce glare from rain drops by 70% with only a 5% loss of light intensity. Snowflakes are larger and slower and therefore more difficult to track, which means 15% of light is lost and more than 60% of the snowflakes are avoided.
Don't look for this to show up on your next car any time soon, though. Several hurdles need to be overcome before it's ready for prime time. The current system loses effectiveness at higher speeds and can't adjust for turbulence or vibrations. But they're working on it.
Watch the video below.