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The problem: Imagine yourself on a small country road, driving at night. The road twists in all sorts of directions (generally left and right) and the only hope you have of seeing the road is to keep your headlights on beam. Out of the gloom comes another motorist also with his headlights on beam. One of the following now occurs:
•You both dip your headlights and crawl past each other at walking pace as neither of you can see the road any more.
•You both keep your headlights on beam and crawl past each other at walking pace as neither of you can see anything at all.
•One of you dips and the other doesn't. One of you ends up cursing by the side of the road while the other screams past shouting, "Yip yip yip yip yip!"

What you really want to do is keep your headlights on beam and shine that lovely bright light at everything ahead of you except for the motorist coming in the opposite direction.

The solution: A camera on the front of the car picks up where there are lights ahead of you and moves small spatulas inside the headlight to create a dim spot in your headlight beam just above the light source.
____________
[additional information and pedant pevention] Even though the spatulas are completely opaque the oncoming car will still be able to see your headlights. The spatula will block light from one small area of the headlights. The unfocused light from the rest of the headlight will still keep you visible and will illuminate that area of your vision (just not as brightly).

The spatulas can be moved according to the size of the light detected. The the light is big it can be assumed that the vehicle is close and the spatula can be moved to create a shadow that is both bigger and further up form the light source, masking the other driver however far they are away from you.

The shadow cast from the spatulas should be large enough to cover the face of the person driving the vehicle whether they are driving a large, truck, car or motorcycle.

The system could also detect the tail lights of cars ahead, allowing you to use your headlights on beam when behind other vehicles.

 — st3f, Jan 15 2002

See my annotation to this idea for an alternative solution... [hippo, Jan 15 2002, last modified Oct 17 2004]

Hell, ANYTHING to keep from being blinded.
 — thumbwax, Jan 15 2002

Can we have them in the shapes of rabbits, dogs and the like?
 — -alx, Jan 15 2002

perhaps the kangaroos should come with headlights. You've upset me now, you dodgy driver you.
 — po, Jan 15 2002

Alternatively have your LCD windscreen display small virtual 'spatulas' (in rabbit or dog shapes) between your eyes and the offending headlights. See my anotation to "Polarized headlights and windshields" (linked).
 — hippo, Jan 15 2002

Or have everyone stop using headlights altogether - if there's any moonlight your eyes adjust to the near-dark conditions and you can see the road pretty well (Note: I have tried this). If just one person uses headlights though you're screwed. Nervous drivers can use night-vision goggles.
 — hippo, Jan 15 2002

Or peril-sensitive sunglasses.
 — angel, Jan 15 2002

 [UB] "All it takes to attract a plague of them is a shower of rain. The water runs off the road and collects in the tabledrain, causing rapid new growth on grass, about a week later. 'Roos love new shoots, they come in for a feed, a car startles them at 100kmh, "Boooiinnngg, ""

you said it yourself, you had a whole week to avoid that roo!
 — po, Jan 15 2002

i heard somewhere that there was a drugrunner who would switch off all the exterior lights on his car and drive at about 120 with nightvision goggles. i have no proof to back this up, but it makes the idea of banning head and tail lights in favor of extremely dim ones (for markers) and including night vision goggles with each new car a very interesting proposition.
 — tkeyser, Jan 16 2002

Though not very interesting for the poor pedestrians who would no longer be able to see the oncoming cars. Let alone the cyclists.
Like orginal idea though, and could be made adjustable for us brits so that they worked here and on the european coninent without having to buy those daft stick on things for your headlights. Croissant.
 — goff, Jan 16 2002

Explanation: Headlights (in the UK at least) shine towards the left-hand kerb so that you can easily see pedestrians about to cross the road. When we drive in France, for example, we therefore have to put little stickers on our headlights to stop this left-pointing beam of light dazzling drivers in the opposite carriageway and causing their untimely death (even though they're probably French).
 — hippo, Jan 16 2002

 Shouldn't this be titled "Spatula Shadow Headlights?" I saw no mention whatsoever of any rabbits, birds, crocs, or any other hand puppets in the explanation.

 A good way to avoid blinding other drivers is to drive with low beams rather than high. I realize that some people suffer from "night blindness," but that's probably because they drove around with bright lights on for all those years.

Is Roo meat any good, Bubba ;^D ?
 — zaphod12, Jan 16 2002

Would it be possible to have some kind of one-way photosensitive opaque material cover the headlights? What I picture is that this material will become dark or specifically polarized in response to the direction of incoming light. So the effective "dark spot" will move closer to the oncoming traffic side of the headlight as the approaching lights get closer. That way, the drivers' headlights will always shine bright everywhere except in the direction of the oncoming drivers.

But I don't know of any way to actually make this happen, without sophisticated photosensors and incredibly precise electromechanics (read: expensive/cumbersome/prone to failure).
 — quarterbaker, Jan 17 2002

alx, the road you suggest (various cutout shapes) has dangers. One of the hottest shows in NY right now is a shadow puppet show using a certain body part exclusive to the male sex illuminated on a screen. Can you imagine seeing that coming at you on the highway?
 — spaceman_spiff, Jan 18 2002

I don't know about the headlight problem, but hey, UnaBubba--can you buy the little ultrasonic bumper whistles in your country? They provide critters like deer here in the U.S. with an auditory triangulation on that thing with the bright lights. The deer key on the sound and move away, despite being dazzled by the lights. Unless kangaroos are too dumb to respond that way, it should work for them, too. I have used these devices for more than a decade now, daily driving through deer-infested areas and have not hit any deer. When I pass deer along the road at dusk, they will react to the whistle with their ears and move away from the road. The whistles were developed out of scientific research, otherwise I would have scoffed at them. No guarantee, but all the critters need is some sort of clue as to what's coming from where, and unless the critter is clueless, it will move away from the source.
 — entremanure, Jan 19 2002

<loaded>The Whistle Recognition Software comes preinstalled, and reliably keeps Deer from crashing into Windows.</loaded>
 — thumbwax, Jan 20 2002

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