"If you're driving in a thunderstorm, the smart headlights will make it seem like it's a drizzle," says Srinivasa Narasimhan, associate professor of robotics.
The system uses a camera to track the motion of raindrops and snowflakes and then applies a computer algorithm to predict just where they'll be a few milliseconds later. The system then deactivates any light beams that would illuminate the particles.
"A human eye will not be able to see that flicker of the headlights," says Narasimhan. "And because the precipitation particles aren't being illuminated, the driver won't see the rain or snow either."
In lab tests, the system could detect raindrops, predict their movement and adjust a light projector accordingly in 13 milliseconds. At low speeds, says the team, it could eliminate 70 to 80 percent of visible rain during a heavy storm, while losing only five or six percent of the light from the headlamp.