Eye controlled headlights

Graphic of crosshair on iris

It sounds like technology that James Bond would have as an aftermarket extra on his Aston Martin in the forthcoming film Spectre. Amazingly, it’s actually real – headlight beams that you control with your eyes.

Developed by Vauxhall, the system works thanks to an infra-red camera fixed into the dashboard behind the steering wheel. It’s focused on the driver at all times, scanning their face more than 50 times per second to detect tiny movements.

From that data it can calculate the line of sight at any given moment, and translates the information into digital commands for actuators in the headlamps. These instantly align the beams in both horizontal and vertical planes. The result is that where you look is where the brightest part goes.

One problem the team has worked hard to solve is that, in the real world, a driver’s eyes naturally jump from one focal point to another. It means that if the headlamps were allowed to follow this movement precisely, the vehicle’s light beam would jerk around erratically. A sophisticated delay algorithm has been created to ensure flowing movement.

The good news is that even if the driver is momentarily distracted from looking at the road ahead – for example, to talk to a child in the rear – lighting is always provided in the direction of travel. That’s because the low beam of the headlamps is programmed to ensure a minimum level of illumination to comply with traffic laws.