Motoring in thick fog is no fun. You see just as little as when you close your eyes. With slow driving and the fog lights on, you usually get there. Still, it does not give a safe feeling and few drivers will feel comfortable in the middle of the white blanket of fog. Researchers at MIT have now developed a system that can see better in the fog than people do. What’s up with that?
Safe driving with fog
In the fog you can usually only see 30 to 50 meters of the area in front of you. The new system can do this better. The system uses a laser with which the distance of objects can be calculated. However, this system still had to be adjusted, because this only works accurately when the weather is good. The laser beams are then shot away from a camera and then it is measured how long it takes for them to rebound. However, this is difficult with fog, because the small water droplets in the air reflect the laser in all directions. The laser lights then return to the camera at different times, so the calculations are not accurate.
That’s why MIT came up with a new algorithm. The researchers found that no matter how thick the fog is, the reflection of the laser light always follows a specific pattern. The system calculates how the mist droplets influence the time of reflection of the light. This allows them to eliminate mist drops and only the physical objects remain and the system can see what is in front of the camera.
System tested in the fog
The researchers have made artificial mist in a small room with a water tank with engine inside to humidify the air. Then they put down small objects, such as blocks and cards, to find out how far and what the system could see. The system could see 21 centimeters further than people. In real fog the system will be able to see even further, because the artificial fog was much thicker than natural mass.
The expectation is that with this system far enough can be seen for a driver to brake well in advance for a predecessor. Promised a lot of good!