Feature, IoT/Smart Lighting, Outdoor, Transport

How connected lights can make pedestrians visible

With the camouflage effect, lighting blurs the contrast between an object and its surroundings. The pedestrian on the left – hardly visible – under standard lights – stands out from the background as a negative projection using adapted headlights, right. Image: Markus Breig, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

IT’S A HORROR scenario for every driver: Suddenly, a previously invisible pedestrian comes out of the dark between two street lights or the shade of two parked cars.

But now a combination of sensors in the street lights or on the roadside and intelligent car headlights could solve the problem.

Scientists are working on a special method to optimally adapt car headlights to the local conditions.

‘By combining stationary street lights with variable headlights, optimum visibility will be achieved,’ says Light Technology Institute chief scientist Professor Cornelius Neumann. Photo: Markus Breig, KIT

When lighting conditions blur the contrast between an object and its surroundings, experts refer to it as the ‘camouflage effect’. The human eye cannot perceive the object under these conditions. The same applies to camera eyes of autonomous vehicles.

The Propix headlight – developed by researchers at the Light Technology Institute of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany – can adapt its light distribution to the environment. It can reshape its photometric distribution to suppress certain areas completely, whereas others are illuminated brightly.

Now, the researchers are working on connecting Propix with other ultrasonic, radar or lidar (laser radiation) sensors on the car.

In case the sensors detect an obstacle located in a blind spot of the eye or camera, the headlight will react autonomously and illuminate the spot or dim the light.

‘By combining stationary street lights with variable headlights, optimum visibility will be achieved,’ Light Technology Institute chief Professor Cornelius Neumann told Lux.

And the goal is far more ambitious: Propix control is to be supplied not only with information from sensors on the driver’s vehicle, but also from sensors onboard other vehicles or at the roadside. “The challenge consists in the interaction between the different sensors and the headlights,” Neumann says.

In human terms, the scientists want to equip the car with additional sensory organs. ‘No matter whether we see a person coming our way or we only hear this person’s steps, the information is the same: Somebody is approaching us,’ Neumann explains. ‘If we can equip a car accordingly, we can make road traffic safer.’

The researchers plan to test their new technology on the Baden-Württemberg Test Area for Autonomous Driving that was opened in Karlsruhe in May this year.



  • ‘Technology and the safer city’ is one of the sessions at the Safer Cities conference which takes place on the first day of the LuxLive 2018 exhibition at ExCeL London. Open Wednesday 14 November and Thursday 15 November, entry is free if you pre-register HERE.