BMW Unveils Laser-Powered Headlights

By on January 16, 2015

Ever been driving and some jerk has his high-beams on, blinding you while you attempt to navigate the road? Of course you have. Whether from the oncoming lanes of traffic or from someone driving behind you, getting your eyes seared by another car’s brights is an experience that we would all prefer to do without.

Well, fear not, for the days of burning eyes from overly-cautious night time drivers may be reaching their end, thanks to some nifty innovations from BMW. BMW’s M4 Concept Iconic debuted in Las Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show this past week, starting the discussion about a very interesting experimental feature: laser-powered headlights.

That’s right, laser beams might be the best thing to save your eyes while you’re on the road.

While this may seem a little counterintuitive – after all, we’ve all learned not to stare directly at harmful laser beam lights – the way that BMW has engineered these headlights ensures that our eyes will actually be hurting much, much less when dealing with high-beam-happy drivers.

Instead of just shooting out high-powered laser beams, the BMW actually converts light from a monochromatic blue laser into output that is much better for our eyes. BMW explains the process accordingly: “A special optical system directs the rays from the high-performance diodes onto a phosphor plate inside the light, which converts the beam into a very bright white light that is similar to natural daylight and pleasant to the eye.”

The light created in this process is actually about ten times more intense than the light produced by commercial headlights today, and yet, it consumes 30% less energy than traditional xenon, halogen, and LED lights.

So how else does BMW intend to solve the issue of blinding high-beams? The M4 Concept Iconic has some other sweet features too. The car’s headlights shoot beams of light 2000 feet ahead of the vehicle, a distance that is more than two times that of current headlights. Then, an innovative “Selective Beam” system detects vehicles in front of the car – whether in oncoming lanes or traveling the same direction – and dims the portion of the beam shining on the other vehicle. It illuminates the parts of the road you need to be bright, while keeping the beams off other drivers, preventing middle fingers, honking, and flashed brights. Everyone wins.

If you’re wondering why these laser-powered headlights aren’t on the road in America if the technology exists, you can blame the government. BMW has already sold several M4 Concept Iconics, complete with laser-headlights, in Germany. But in the United States, there is a regulation in the federal motor vehicle standards that bans laser technology.

Let’s hope these outdated restrictions are changed soon, for the sake of all of our retinas.


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