Uh oh. Did Carnegie Mellon University just steal Audi’s Matrix Beam headlight tech?

CMU Programmable Headlight
Nobody likes to be blinded while driving. Whether an oncoming vehicle simply has its brights on, or is just the right height to photonically stab into your irises, the strain on your eyes is annoying and dangerous.

According to Network World, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, PA may have a solution.

What the gurus at CMU have developed is an adaptive headlight system that selectively illuminates certain areas of the road, while omitting others. This could allow drivers to use their high beams without fear of distracting oncoming motorists.

“The programmable headlight senses and tracks virtually any number of oncoming drivers, blacking out only the small parts of the headlight beam that would otherwise shine into their eyes,” researchers at CMU’s Robotics Institute said.

The headlamps consist of a Digital Light Processing projector, an Intel i7 quad core processor, and an integrated camera. The array of gadgets splits the light into a million individual beams, each of which is controlled independently by the onboard processor.

The system doesn’t just protect the vision of oncoming traffic; it goes even further to protect the person sitting behind the wheel.

CMU Programmable Headlights

“During snow or rain showers, the headlight improves driver vision by tracking individual flakes and drops in the immediate vicinity of the car and blocking the narrow slivers of headlight beam that would otherwise illuminate the precipitation and reflect back into the driver’s eyes,” the researchers continued.

The assembly is impressive, yes, but CMU isn’t the first to play with adaptive headlights. In fact, Carnegie’s project sounds very similar to a technology that Audi debuted last year.

Related: Part car, part projector: Illuminating Audi’s futuristic lighting technologies

The German automaker previewed its ‘Matrix Beam’ headlights last February, another system that can dim, divert, and extinguish individual light beams based on environment.

Besides being first to the adaptive headlight party, Audi’s Matrix Beam headlamps also have an advantage in size. CMU’s units are currently larger than standard headlights, which may work for large commercial vehicles, but it would be difficult to implement on commuter cars. Audi’s Matrix Beams, conversely, were easily integrated into the 2013 Audi A8.

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