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Penetrating the Fog

A new laser headlight system promises to provide greater visibility in foggy driving conditions

There is possibly nothing more tiring, difficult and dangerous than driving through the fog. And that’s because about 85% of the information that our brain processes, whilst driving, arrives directly from our eyesight.

Fog reduces visibility and limits contrasts, making it harder to distinguish between stationary and moving objects, and distorts our perception of space and speed. Just like darkness, heavy rain and smoke, fog limits our vision and reduces the data we have at our disposal to make correct decisions whilst driving.

Autonomous Vehicles

And that’s not all the bad news, either. Fog also remains a foe to be reckoned with for the self-driving and autonomous vehicles that are currently being tested on our roads.

Many visual detection systems in autonomous cars are based on video cameras and radar units, which are relatively cheap but do not necessarily provide a thoroughly detailed picture of the driving environment. Lidar systems, on the other hand, are possibly the most promising, albeit expensive, vision systems for self-driving cars. However, they too encounter issues with fog, rain, and snow, as the LIDAR beams may bounce of off water drops and snowflakes, providing the artificial intelligence system with erroneous information.

Automotive Headlights

The standard fog lights that are currently installed on our cars are certainly a great improvement over what was available just a few decades ago. However, their main purpose is to allow other drivers to notice the vehicle, but they are not especially efficient at allowing drivers to see any better or farther in the fog.

Modern led matrix adaptive headlight systems that can dynamically shade and illuminate specific sections of the road are of great help, especially to motorcyclists, but in reality, they do not resolve the fog conundrum any better than standard halogen headlights.

Laser System

The good news is that the problem may have been solved by researcher Domenico Gallo, who has developed a system of laser beams that pierce thick fog and rain creating “luminous corridors” that allow drivers to see the road and street signs.

The laser system, which is purported to provide visibility over 1 kilometre, has been developed by Mr. Gallo in collaboration with the University of Cassino and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) and will soon be experimented in the European Union.

Gallo’s laser vision system for motor vehicles has also received an award from Italian Consumer Association Codacons for the development of an efficient, safe and technological device that guarantees greater visibility in case of rain and fog, as well as for its reduced light pollution and great energetic efficiency.

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