General Motors Company’s [NYSE:GM] European subsidiary Opel is developing a new type of headlight that actually tracks the movement of your eyes and then shines in the direction you are looking at, within a set range. The new feature will form part of Opel’s adaptive headlights in the near future and will likely filter across to other brands within the GM fold at some point.

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In development for almost two years, the system relies on a highly-accurate camera that reads the driver’s face more than 50 times per second, scanning prominent points, such as the nose and eyes, to detect movement and thereby the driver’s line of sight. The system then translates the information gathered into data commands for electronically-controlled actuators, which instantly align the vehicle’s headlight projectors.

The major hurdle was dealing with the fact that a driver’s eyes will jump from one focal point to another frequently during normal driving. So if the headlights were allowed to follow this movement precisely, the vehicle’s light path would jerk around erratically. The solution was a sophisticated delay algorithm which ensures a natural movement for the light path. Should the driver not be looking at the road, the headlights will remain on, pointing in the direction of the vehicle. Importantly, the system has been designed to work with anyone behind the wheel without any calibration, no matter their size.

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Eye-tracking headlight technology from Opel

Eye-tracking headlight technology from Opel

A launch date for the eye-tracking headlights is yet to be announced but Opel already has some leading technology that forms part of a third-generation adaptive headlight system available now. Called “AFL+”, the third-generation adaptive headlights can adjust their direction and intensity depending on the situation (pedestrian areas, city driving, country roads, highways and adverse weather) and based on steering wheel and speed inputs.

AFL+ also includes functions such as dynamic curve light, cornering light and a high beam light assistant that automatically switches the headlights to low beam whenever a forward-facing camera, located on the reverse of the rearview mirror, detects the proximity of headlights or tail-lights of other vehicles.

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Engineers at Opel are also planning to implement new matrix LED headlights in the near future. Already offered by German luxury marques, matrix LED headlights use multiple LEDs that can be deactivated independently to split up a light path of a car’s high beam so that other drivers aren’t blinded. Basically, when light sources, such as another car’s headlights (for oncoming cars) or taillights (for cars in front), are detected, LEDs in the relevant zone are deactivated, while the rest of the road remains brightly illuminated. Opel plans to introduce this feature within the next 18 months.


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