Dynamic Stationary Headlights

Innovation keeps rolling forward full steam ahead when it comes to auto design and manufacturing.  I don’t say that lightly, being a safety driver testing some of the most advanced cars on the planet. Yet I feel like auto companies have focused all their attention on bluetooth, autonomy or other sexy technological advances and have overlooked one crucial point:  headlights.

I mean, cars have them and all, but I feel like we’re working with the same basic design as when headlights were first attached to cars.  There’s two, on the nose of the vehicle, pointing forward.  With the addition of LED bulbs they’ve made the light brighter and more efficient, but didn’t otherwise challenge the overall design.  The problem being, when they were designed a hundred years ago they only seemed to be thinking about the driver, who really is only 50% of the user base they should be concerned about.

Headlights are designed to show the driver what they’re missing at night when our vision no longer becomes adequate for moving around at high speeds.  I’ve observed that the newer or fancier the car, the more powerful the LED or higher angle used.  Which I’m sure is GREAT for the driver.  Just think of all the cars and cyclist and pedestrians they’ll blind while driving around at night.  Why doesn’t the design and function of headlights take into consideration those who are caught in them?

Working as a safety driver for the Google Self Driving Car project and before that as an Uber driver, one downside of the job is that you spend more time than you would like sitting in uncomfortable positions in order to avoid being blinded by very bright headlights in your rear and side view mirrors.  And that isn’t even considering the pair you can’t avoid coming straight at you.  It’s getting to a point where I flash my high beams at cars dead certain that they are driving with their high beams on, only to get flashed back at very close range as they pass me.

We have to share the road; and if your normal headlights are so bright that I think you’re driving around with your high beams on, then that’s a problem.  I understand you need to see the road, but so do I.  And I can’t do that if it takes my eyes three seconds to adjust to the night environment after being momentarily blinded.

There should be new design standard that requires all normal beams to be at such and such an angle.  You might come back to me with “Well, Emma, there already is that standard,” but unless you show me in whatever book where that standard exists, and then the clause that exempts all Prii from it, then I will believe you.  I’m starting to think there’s an unspoken equation auto companies use that goes something like for every ‘n’ (being smugness factor of vehicle) increase headlight angle by 2 degrees.  I’ll leave it to your imagination how they factor ‘n’.

Auto companies should be able to design a stationary headlight.  Stationary not in that it’s locked into place in the car, but that the pitch of the beam does not vary if the car drives over a speed bump or into a driveway.  The bulb could be on a rocker so that the upward or downward movement of the car would not affect the angle of the beam.

I was almost stumped by a coworker I was sharing this idea with.  He asked what if the car was going uphill?  Which is a very good concern to have.  After all, the car can’t be going uphill but have the lights pointed straight down at the ground, right?  I’m not entirely sure what the solution is, but I feel like the rear of the vehicle would have to be taken into consideration when angling the rocker.  For instance, with a speed bump, the front and back of the vehicle will move vertically independently of each other depending how far away the tires are from each other and how fast the car is going.  Unlike going uphill, where the whole car will be pitched at the same angle.

I’m not asking for anything (too) complicated; certainly nothing that hasn’t already been invented.  Maybe that’s the issue.  It’s too simple.  Or maybe just not sexy enough.  I wish someone would do a study on how much staring down really bright headlights damages your eyes.  Yes, I will get a group of optometrists to run a study in order to make my idea sexier….

Sun Tracking Transition Windows

First I’ll start with an update about how the Stemsational fared on Quirky: it didn’t.  I’m not even entirely sure they looked at it as they claim to do.  I got a form fill letter stating “Sorry _______, but Quirky decided not to go with the _________.  But you should keep trying!” I guess the key to getting stuff developed is to get people who have already bought stuff on the site to vote for you.  That’s the only thing that carries any significance; which I’m not too stunned to hear, they are after all, a business.

So, the Stemsational has been pushed back onto my plate, where I will push it to the side like so many over cooked peas, only to have one roll back into the middle of my dinner every once and a while, forcing me to reconsider before eventually deciding to corral it back with it’s unfortunate brothers.  So goes the life of an inventor.  Or at least, that’s what I’ll tell myself since I neither know any other inventors nor have actually invented anything myself.  But if there was ever a notion to spur oneself on, it’s romance.

The other big development that has happened since I last wrote is that I’m now working on Google’s Self-Driving Car project!  Which, I might have to kill myself when my contract is up, because I don’t know if I can go back to the mundanity of everyday life after having worked such a sexy job.  It certainly is going to be hard to top.  Maybe underwater welding?  I don’t know.

Anyhow, I get to fly future cars all over Mountain View all week long.  And when you’re in a car for eight hours a day, you start to realize there are some serious design flaws.  My biggest pet peeve is currently right around when the evening commute starts to pick up speed, (if you’ll permit me), is the same time when I need to start using the visor to block out the sun.  When you’re winding your way around a place you find yourself furiously flipping the visor this way and that to make sure you’re blocking out the sun.  It especially becomes fun when the sun sinks below the level the visor is able to help out with, but has not yet set below the horizon.  Sometimes it’s a good thing the car drives itself….

What would be a huge help is if the window worked the way transition lenses in glasses do, and become darker exactly where the sun was.  It would have to be smart of course, because the whole window going dark if the sun was shining head on would not really be an improvement.  The car would somehow need to track the position of the sun and correspond that position with where the driver’s head was, and then create a circle big enough to only obscure the sun and then follow it around has the car pivoted.

A tall order, I know, but Sergei was throwing billions of dollars at a glass project no one wanted.  What if he could pivot it to a product everyone can appreciate?  Plus, I think the general populous will be relieved to know that one of Google[x] core products will no longer be attempting to turn people into cyborgs.  When the robot revolution comes, it will be on four wheels.  Let’s just hope they’ll be considerate enough not to blind us.