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Rapid-tint glasses protect drivers from headlight glare

graeme paton | the times | 7 november 2016

It is one of the biggest hazards of driving at night. You are on an unlit road when a car approaches with its headlights on full beam, leaving you blinded, cursing and potentially losing control.

Now scientists have developed smart glasses that filter out glare from head lamps. Liquid crystals, the same technology as employed in flat-screen televisions, are being used to detect sudden light changes in the road and rapidly tint the lenses.

The glasses are synchronised with the motorist’s own headlights to ensure they only filter out oncoming glare.

Department for Transport figures show that dazzle from the sun or headlights were a factor in 2,884 road accidents last year, in which there were 19 deaths.

The new technology has been developed by Inoptec Ltd, an eyewear company, and PA Consulting.

PA said the glasses were developed because the human eye cannot react quickly enough to adjust to rapid transitions between bright light and darkness. It is estimated that the eye can take up to 30 seconds to be fully acclimatised to different light conditions.

The electronically-controlled liquid crystal filters balance light levels and the glasses are tinted within about ten milliseconds of the light changing. For the system to work, the motorist needs special LED-based headlights fitted, so that wearers can continue to see the lights from their own car. It is expected to cost about £2,500 to fit.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “Full beam lights do catch drivers out, particularly on rural roads where temporary blindness can be fatal. Technology to help drivers in all conditions should be encouraged.”

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