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In a dark garage at the headquarters of Mercedes Benz in Stuttgart, Germany, a flat gray S-Class lightens a white screen at the end of long hall. The head lights fire on and while the light is bright, the look it’s not that impressive.

Then electronic and software developer Stefan Toepfer for exterior lighting taps on his tablet and a series of black moving squares appear within the lit area. It  consumes a moment before I realize that the dark areas I saw illustrates that cars in real life wouldn’t get blinded by the Mercedes’ high beams. It’s a great way to see more at night without endangering other drivers. And it actually gets better.
By adding what’s importantly a digital projector to headlights, Mercedes was able to guide and direct  how and where light is thrown. The company’s Digital Light system not only can illuminate the road ahead without blinding other drivers, but it can direct information towards the road. It’s sort of like a HUD(heads-up-display) for asphalt.
During the presentation after the Frankfurt auto show Toepfer elaborated that the sensors and software in the car can determine when and where to brighten on the basis of road conditions and traffic. The system makes use of a high-resolution lighting model with 3 high-powered LED. Those lights are focused on a DLP chip with a million micro-mirrors that have two positions: on or off. Including all those tiny mirrors, Mercedes was able to bring out and manufacture more interesting images than the 84 LEDs found in the current S-Class headlamp. This system consist of a high enough resolution that  you could even  play a movie (even though it is shown in black and white) with it like a personal drive in theatre.
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The outcome is the power to project information directly on the road ahead of the car. , Mercedes is researching exactly what kind of data should be distributed with the driver. Toepfer notes that it doesn’t make any meaning to just duplicate what’s found in the car’s traditional HUD: speed, directions. One thing that does make meaning is projecting lines of light that guide the driver in circumstances where the roadway might be small or not in line with the road markings like in construction zones.
Before it reaches this extent, it can thrigger the symbol for an upcoming construction zone on to the road to alert the driver that things are about to get wonky or dangerous. It can also show the driver the optimal following distance between them and the car.  This is essential for drivers that are trying to be better. Another thing that could also warn pedestrians the driver doesn’t see with a projected alert is the Digital Light , while also highlighting them. In addition it could use the car’s onboard mapping service to alarm the driver that an unexpected road warning or stop sign is coming up after a blind curve.
All of this early-stage technology are not free from issues. A patchwork of regulations in the countries and states the cars are sold in could hamper the feature. The United States has been basically unwelcoming of new stages and forms of lighting technology in vehicles. Related  technologies from Audi and Mercedes are still not allowed on cars sold in the US. The government needs to see a life-saving benefit before it takes chances on how headlights are allowed to operate.
One of the things that Mercedes reveals  during the demo was a projected crosswalk for pedestrians. It will let folks know that the driver and car see them and they are ok to cross the street. But as Toepfer pointed out during the demo, what happens when another vehicle is coming in a different direction? Will they obey the projected crosswalk? These are one of  the problems  the company is trying to handle while also fine-tuning the technology.
The US determines if these types of lighting systems are truly important, Mercedes will continue to research DLP on a car. The Digital Light system is still a prototype and the automaker is quick to point out that as of right now, they have no plans to add it to any of their vehicles.
The next S-Class won’t have a high resolution headlight system but there’s a tendency that after everything could be ready to brighten the world in a way that actually aids you drive better.
All that tech will be sitting in a car, parked in a dark garage, in Germany.
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