Hyundai Mobis wants future cars to project street-sign icons from their headlights to improve nighttime road safety.
The company, a parts supplier controlled by Hyundai, unveiled a lighting system that can project text or images onto the road surface. In a press release, Hyundai Mobis described this as a potential extension of the driving information shown in head-up displays, as well as a potential way to warn pedestrians.
The lighting system is tied into a vehicle’s GPS and onboard cameras, allowing it to show the appropriate information in a given situation. For example, headlights could project a roadwork sign when approaching a construction zone, or a crosswalk sign for pedestrians, according to Hyundai Mobis.
Headlights are comprised of many small LEDs with a collection of tiny mirrors. The system uses 25,000 LEDs, which Hyundai Mobis claims is 250 times the amount used in conventional headlights. Each is 0.04 mm wide, which is thinner than a human hair, while the mirrors are just 0.01 mm wide. This allows for a fine level of control in shaping the light projected by the many LEDs into specific shapes.
Shape-projecting headlights aren’t a new idea. Mercedes demonstrated something similar in 2018 with the digital headlights in its Maybach S-Class luxury sedan, saying these programmable million-pixel lights could project pathways through road construction or use arrows to highlight pedestrians, among other things.
In 2022, Ford engineers in Europe showed off shape-projecting headlights, also suggesting multiple possible uses including warning drivers of hazardous road conditions, showing upcoming turns, or showing a path around cyclists. Ford said the advantage of this tech was that it showed information in a driver’s line of sight, rather than on a screen, which requires drivers to take their eyes off the road. Hyundai Mobis, however, also hinted at possible uses in autonomous vehicles.
“In the era of autonomous driving, software technology capable of integrating numerous auto components into a single device will be more important than ever,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Any use in production vehicles isn’t guaranteed, however. Hyundai Mobis has shown some neat tech over the years, including panorama sunroof airbags and, more recently, a prototype Hyundai Ioniq 5 that drives sideways using integrated steering and in-wheel motor hardware. But the company doesn’t always follow up with production plans.