Highbeams. A Minor Rant in E Major...

With the somewhat-recent daylight-savings time change, I've been driving at night a lot more on my way home from work.  This is a concern to me for a couple of reasons, one of which I have no control over.

volvoactivehighbeam.jpg

As we age, in addition to developing the need for the oh-so-stying bifocal modification to our glasses (Why, yes, I'd like that no-line option, please!) we also lose night-vision.  Our eyeballs age along with the rest of us and my 50+ year-old eyeballs just aren't as bouncy as they used to be.

I don't have much control over this part of the misery of night-driving - until they come-up with an infra-red or night-vision driving system, I'm pretty much at the mercy at what my decrepit eyeballs are able to squint out of the glare while hurtling down the highway at 110 kmph.  

Shit.  And you worry about drunk drivers at night, right?

Recently, in direct proportion to my increase in night-driving, I've also developed a sort of humorless rage at those drivers who blithely whip down the highway with every single light bulb available in the front of their vehicle at maximum illumination.  You know, because they can.  They also, and wrongly, believe that the divided highway provides them with some sort of assurance that diminishing the forward-mounted illumination projectors aren't required.  Or, as the somewhat famous bumper sticker from the 70's read:  Dim it, Damn it!

Drivers roaring up behind me -- yes, I drive the speed limit at night, with full beams-a-blazin' are somewhat less of an annoyance as I can flip my rear-view up to night-mode and pretty much ignore your douche-baggery until you roar past, blue beams blazing.

Speaking of, I really like the blue-beam headlights.  I figure it's kind of like deer tagging for hunters.  Douchebags self-identify with these types of headlights because it allows them to teeter within fractions of the legal limits of allowable lumens.  S'ok - keep flaunting your blue-beamed fuck-you's to the rest of us.  It's a small trade for the ability to see you coming.

Anyway.  My personal opinion, in case you've not gleaned it by now, is that people that drive with their high-beams on ought to be submitted to some involuntary sterilization program.  That way, we can fix a lot of the dumbass in just a single generation.

Then I started to think a bit more rationally about the problem.  My first thought was wondering why the hell manufacturers even put high-beams in cars to begin with.  Considering the potential for abuse combined with a lack of breeding controls, you can pretty much tweet the outcome with reasonable surety.  I'd say that maybe, and I'm being generous here, maybe 20% of the world's population lives in location that would require high-beams in order to navigate a particular stretch of road safely.  Maybe.  And I'm thinking that these are like those two lane mountain roads that would make a goat blanch.  In which case, you'd probably be safer with less high-beams and more slow-the-fuck-down, but that's just a guess.

Point is, there's no point in having high-beams so.  On the other hand, taking away something that's been a god-given 'murican right since Henry Fucking Ford ain't going to play.  

Considering the advances in optical sensors, prevalent and cheap as witnessed in gazillions of camera phones, tables, digital cameras, cheap solar lighting, etc.  Why the hell have we not completely integrated this technology into our cars?

If you combine the science of LED technology with optical sensors, then you have the engineered ability to remove the potential for abuse from what's most-likely a life-saving safety feature.  You can put a processor behind this marriage of light-emission and light-detection and slave it to the car's CPU.

For example, we know the velocity of the vehicle and we can detect changes in ambient light reflected.  Using a light-based sonar,  a single LED at a specific frequency could ping objects on the side of the road at a known distance.  Using some calculus to factor in acceleration and velocity, I wonder if you could measure the signal decay,  not caused by the time-to-return of the specific frequency, but by the decay of the signal eroded by other, stronger light?  I'm not that kind of engineer, but my first pass was thinking about measuring signal attenuation and decay as opposed to intensity.

The optical sensor would detect incoming light and could do so in vary narrow, focused fields.  Simply put, the light reaching your vehicle is analyzed for it's strength in lumens.  Brighter light would cause your headlights to adjust to a minimal threshold while a lack of light would cause your headlights to flare.

Since we're talking about light, the LED tech would allow adjustments to happen, well, at the speed of the electronics processing the light signals.  In other words, faster than you can dim your lights yourself were you so inclined to do so.

Anyway, I stumbled on this press-release from Volvo announcing a similar set-up.  I thought that it's cool that engineers are, as usual, way ahead of my personal curve and are already working to solve the problem.

Tech like this is going to make it harder to find them douchers when the revolution comes...  S'ok... they still got themselves tagged with them wireless bluetooth headsets...