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Intelligent Headlamp Control ensures optimum illumination of the road in all driving situations

Mar 23, 2009

Continuously adjusting the illumination range of the vehicle headlamps to the traffic situation and the immediate surroundings produces safety benefits – Continental's digital video camera controls the system

Frankfurt am Main, Germany, March 23, 2009. The second generation of the Intelligent Headlamp Control system developed by Continental, the international automotive supplier, is being installed in a series production model for the first time. The system, controlled by a digital camera and a microprocessor, continuously adjusts the illumination range of the vehicle headlamps to the traffic situation, thus ensuring that a significantly greater area of the road ahead of the vehicle is illuminated, without dazzling oncoming traffic or the vehicles in front. The new Intelligent Headlamp Control system is being launched on the market in a German premium model.

Intelligent Headlamp Control ensures optimum illumination of the road Unlike the first generation Intelligent Headlamp Control and unlike the conventional main beam, which, apart from dipped beam, is the only other headlamp setting available, this second generation is continuously variable; as a result, it does away with that brief disconcerting feeling of driving into a "black hole" when the main beam is switched off and before the eyes have become accustomed to the shorter light cone and the area of darkness in front of the vehicle. The camera can detect an oncoming vehicle in the opposite lane or another vehicle in front and continuously adjusts the illumination range to the traffic situation. In the majority of circumstances, this will provide drivers with more light than when using dipped beam. The lower limit of the headlamp illumination range is the same as that of the conventional dipped beam. Intelligent light assistants are growing in importance, especially for the new LED main headlamps, since these offer greater freedom for adjusting the driving light beyond that provided by the continuously variable headlamp leveling control. Continental develops and supplies the required LED control electronics for this application.

The challenging task of controlling the light beam is undertaken by the camera which is fitted level with the inside mirror and picks up the headlamps of oncoming vehicles, the tail lamps of vehicles in front and even street lighting. The system not only senses if they are light rays, which mainly come from headlamps and tail lamps, but it also evaluates their height above the ground and, in particular, the velocity and angle at which they are approaching or moving away from one's own vehicle. The camera also senses the intensity of the light. Using all this data, the software's analysis algorithms calculate whether the vehicle matches the relevant parameters and adjusts the headlamp beam's illumination range all this in fractions of a second. On test drives at night, covering more than half a million kilometers in different parts of the world, the engineers filmed video sequences which were stored in a database to prepare the system for every conceivable set of circumstances. The data collected amounted to some 10 terabytes, the equivalent of almost 1,200 Hollywood films on DVD.

The starting point for developing this safety feature was the recognition that drivers employ their main beam much too infrequently partly for convenience but also out of concern that they might dazzle other road users and thus endanger them. With Intelligent Headlamp Control, a digital camera, developed and manufactured by Continental, takes on the task of optimizing the settings of the headlamps. "With night visibility considerably extended, we are expecting a major improvement in safety, not just because the driver has a clearer view but because he will be less tired and subject to significantly less stress", emphasized Amrei Drechsler, Vice President of the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems business unit of the Chassis & Safety Division.

Speed Limit Monitoring and Lane Departure Warning are additional functions

As well as controlling the intelligent headlamp, Continental's camera system provides additional functionalities: Speed Limit Monitoring alerts the driver to the current speed limit by interpreting every type of speed limit sign (both permanent and electronically variable signs) and compares the data from the display with information from the navigation system. With the Lane Departure Warning system, the camera uses the road markings to monitor whether the vehicle is at risk of leaving the lane, perhaps because the driver is overtired or has been distracted.

Night driving increases the risk of an accident

Roughly one third of all traffic accidents occur during the hours of darkness even though there is considerably less traffic at night than during the day. At the same time, the proportion of fatal accidents is particularly high when it is dark. The risk of being killed in an accident at night is more than twice as great as during the day. Pedestrians are particularly at risk. In winter especially, with twilight setting in early, the number of fatal accidents rises rapidly; according to the Federal Statistical Office in Germany, between November and January, 75 percent of pedestrians who suffer fatal accidents do so during the hours of darkness. So, better illuminated roads also help to protect pedestrians.


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Nicole Geissler

External Communications


Division Chassis & Safety

Guerickestraße 7

60488 Frankfurt am Main

Tel.: +49 69 7603-8492

Fax: +49 69 7603-3945