Ford’s high-resolution headlights provide a new kind of augmented reality

Rather than projecting data onto a head-up display, Ford’s high-resolution headlights can project it onto the road itself.

Ford’s new augmented reality high-resolution headlight technology is demonstrating its ability to project information for drivers directly onto the road ahead. The lights can show symbols for highway signs and driving conditions without drawing the driver’s eyes from the road.

The system can show information about changes in weather, such as falling snow, slippery conditions, and ice on the road. Connecting the lights to the navigation system would let them project arrows for turns onto the road surface. And when squeezing through a narrow gap, as when parking, the lights could project an image of the car’s width, indicating whether or not it will fit through.

Unlike a head-up display, these lights can also convey information to people outside the car. That could be the projection of a crosswalk onto the road where markings are unclear. It could also show the car’s path around cyclists, ensuring the car passes at a safe distance.

“What started as playing around with a projector light and a blank wall could take lighting technologies to a whole new level,” said Lars Junker, features and software, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems, Ford of Europe. “There’s the potential now to do so much more than simply illuminate the road ahead, to help reduce the stress involved in driving at night. The driver could get essential information without ever needing to take their eyes off the road.”