When it comes to self-driving cars, I am quite sure that much more testing needs to be done, not to mention a whole lot of standardization being agreed upon before it is rolled out on a global scale. After all, machines are not 100% foolproof all the time, especially not when we hear about Google’s research team allowing their self-driving cars to actually break the legal speed limit. Driving around during the daytime on a bright and sunny day should not be a problem at all, but what happens when dusk falls? That gets a whole lot trickier, so is there something which can be done to help such vehicles out? Perhaps, and flashing LEDs could very well be the answer.
Engineers are working on all sorts of technologies that could make cars smarter and help drivers stay safe–lasers, radar, ad-hoc WiFi, and advanced image recognition are all on the table. However, these are all complicated and expensive to implement. Intel research scientist Richard Roberts has a different idea. It may be possible to use visible light emitted by LEDs to create a low-cost automobile mesh network. Many cars already have LED headlights that could be used in such a system, so we’re already off to a good start. Intel has been working on so-called visible light communication (VLC) since 2008, but it has been on the back burner as of late. Roberts hopes that its potential as a car-to-car communication platform could renew interest. The system described by Roberts and his colleagues would use a series of rapid pulses of visible light to relay information from one car to another. These LED flashes would be so short as to be invisible to the human eye, but could potentially tell other cars about traffic conditions down the road, positioning, possible collisions, and (if you put it all together) even as part of an autonomous driving system.