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Packing 1,024 LEDs into one headlight is smart, but not legal (yet)

When you turn down a dark country road and flick on your high beams, it’s like throwing open the curtains on a sunny afternoon after reading by candlelight. Signs glow, potholes jump out, and suddenly you can see the family of deer about to prance out in front of you – just in time.

Too bad you have to switch them off as soon as another driver rounds the bend in front of you, or else risk blinding the poor guy.

Each Eviyos headlight is made up of 1,024 individual LEDs.

But what if you could selectively turn off the part of the headlight that shines at other drivers, and leave the rest? LED matrix headlights do exactly that, with a “grid” of light that selectively shuts down patches to avoid blinding others. These headlights have existed in one form or another for several years, but at CES 2018, German lighting supplier Osram unveiled Eviyos, a new version that brings crazy resolution to the table.

While previous matrix headlights have used around 10 squares of light, each Eviyos headlight is made up of 1,024 individual LEDs, which can be turned on and off on the fly in milliseconds. Combined with sensors that can detect the location of oncoming cars, the headlights can precisely blot out the portion of the light that would blind an oncoming driver at exactly the right time.

“The idea of this is almost like an always-on high beam,” explains Osram engineer Matthew Zajac. “You adapt your beam to traffic.”

Osram Eviyos headlight projection
Nick Mokey/Digital Trends
Nick Mokey/Digital Trends

In a live demo, the projected square of light looks almost like a projected GameBoy screen, with big, chunky “pixels” of light arranged in a square. It showed no noticeable lag, meaning it should be plenty fast to react to passing cars – when paired with the right sensors.

That “pixel” effect has another unforeseen perk: Eviyos headlights could be used to project images, text, and indicators directly onto the road in front of you, or to highlight hazards detected by the sensors – like that deer. And because the pixels that aren’t illuminated don’t consume energy, they’re also more efficient than conventional headlights – even conventional LED headlights.

Each tiny Eviyos module pumps out about 3,000 lumens – that’s a lot considering your average halogen high lamp puts out more like 1,200 lumens. And they’re not just going to shove a pair into a car. “To meet the U.S. beam pattern requirements, the idea would be to use multiple,” Zajac says. “Then you would be able to get a little more definition.”

About those beam requirements: Currently, these headlights aren’t legal in the United States, which hasn’t evolved its regulations to keep pace with technology, and still requires high beams and low beams to come from separate sources. Audi’s competing Matrix headlights have already appeared on cars like the A8 in Europe, but aren’t legal here yet. Osram reps hinted that wheels are turning there, but couldn’t give a firm of idea of when we might actually expect to see them on roads.

Until then, keep flicking that high-beam switch.

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