Smart Brake Light System

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This system improves automotive safety by directly communicating the status of a driver’s braking level to the driver immediately behind them. If the driver in the car with smart brake lights is just applying light pressure to the brake pedal, only a small group of bright LEDs lights up. If moderate pressure is applied, a second group of LEDs lights in addition to the first group. If the driver brakes hard, then all LEDs light up, with the third group being as large as the first two groups combined in order to communicate the impending sudden stop (see Fig. 1).

Currently, in most cars, brake lights are either on or off, so the driver behind cannot tell if you are just lightly slowing or if you are braking hard to avoid hitting something except by depth perception, noticing that your car is getting closer more rapidly than expected. With smart brake lights, you communicate to the driver behind you with instant visual feedback that your car is just lightly slowing, or that you are braking hard. If this instant visual feedback is only a quarter of a second faster than depth perception feedback, then at 40mph, it means the driver behind you will stop at least fifteen feet shorter than if they relied on depth perception alone. Those fifteen feet could be the difference between a rear end collision and just a close call. The objective of this system is to improve highway safety by reducing the incidence of rear end collisions through improved visual communication of the driver’s intention by displaying the level of braking pressure being applied at any given moment. The driver of a car with smart brake lights should be less likely to be rear-ended than one driving with standard brake lights.

For implementation, there may already be sensors that communicate to an anti-lock braking system on how hard the brake pedal is being pressed, so it could be just a matter of having the on board computer or anti-lock braking system controlling the brake light levels.

Alternatively, for a simple system, the LED banks could be set up to be activated by limit switches or proximity sensors near the brake pedal with two diodes in the network to provide redundancy while keeping the first sensor from triggering groups 2 and 3, and keeping the second sensor from triggering group 3 (see Fig. 2). The system could be implemented in a vertical or horizontal orientation, or even in a series of concentric circles to adapt to different aesthetic styles.


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  • Name:
    Jordan Wahl
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