Ford shines a light on tech that can project signs or warnings onto roads

18 Aug 2022

Ford said its headlight technology could project signs onto the road for drivers, such as icy road warnings. Image: Ford

Ford’s headlight technology could project speed limits, weather info and warnings onto the road to improve driver safety at night.

US carmaker Ford is trialling tech using car headlights to project signs and warnings onto the road in front of a vehicle – so the driver can keep their eyes on the way ahead.

As an alternative to head-up displays, Ford said the new technology could project directions, speed limits or weather information onto the road to make driving at night easier.

Night-driving adds extra risks for drivers. Around 40pc of road collisions in the UK happen at night despite there being more drivers in the day, according to statistics on 2015 road accidents.

Ford said the risk is increased when a driver takes their eyes off the road. It hopes this tech could keep drivers focused and prevent them from missing vital road signs that may be hidden in darkness.

Lars Junker, a Ford advanced driver assistance systems engineer, said the project started out as “playing around with a projector light and a blank wall”, but can be taken to a “whole new level”.

“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.” Junker added. “The driver could get essential information without ever needing to take their eyes off the road.”

The technology could provide weather change information such as snow falling, fog or an icy road ahead. Connecting the headlight to the car’s navigation system could display upcoming turns, while the width of the vehicle could be projected onto the road to help the driver judge spacing for tight gaps or parking spaces.

Ford said the projected information from a headlight could also benefit other road users, such as displaying a crosswalk onto the road for the driver and pedestrians where the real crosswalk is faded or unclear.

The tech is currently being trialled in controlled environments and it is unclear if the idea will make it to the roads. There is also the issue of the legal regulations of projecting images onto roads, which could vary between countries.

Ford is taking aim at road signs in daylight too, with the potential to make speed limit signs a thing of the past. In May, the company revealed connected vehicle technology it is trialling, which could automatically reduce a car’s speed in certain zones to improve road safety.

Last month, Ford also said it has developed a prototype robot charging station that drivers operate by a smartphone from inside their electric vehicle. The carmaker said this technology could enable disabled drivers to stay in the car while charging, or they could leave the car while the robot does all the work.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic