One deep dark night on a dirt road on a remote mountain of an even more remote island, I rode swiftly downhill, passenger of a pickup truck. The driver shut our lights off. We sat in silence as the truck skidded and careened along the dusty road.
I barely could see the driver’s hands rolling quickly back and forth on the steering wheel to keep us from driving off the cliff ledge to our left. He didn’t slow down after lights-out, and when I turned my head more towards him he said warmly l’appel du vide or something like that and smiled broadly at the barely visible road ahead.
While the road itself is seen better with headlamps, by shutting them off we actually expanded our visibility further and were safer overall. And of course we revealed ourselves less dramatically (noise and dust still were emitted), which can reduce blindness in oncoming vehicles.
With so many experiences like this in the past, I often see lights as pollution and wonder how much longer we must accept theories of Victorian street-lamps as safer?
Apparently, the original lighting in London was so poor in 1763 that James Boswell was able to have sex with a prostitute on Westminster Bridge. The shadows and gloom of the pre-electrified world not just provided privacy for Mr Boswell’s actions but it was also a haven for crime.
To be fair I have seen couples having sex in the broad daylight on the eastbound platform at Charlton Station (CTN) in London, so it might not just be about visibility. Anyway, developing better vision integrated directly into the windshield, or our glasses seems like a much more sane and modern idea than trying to increase lumens everywhere. We wear sunglasses while driving, why not a night glass?
We save immense amounts of energy when we choose to leverage starlight and ambient heat, and reveal so much more…fortunately the US military is a big investor in technology along these lines and the latest iteration sounds quite nice:
The BNVD amplifies the small amount of existing light emitted by stars, the moon’s glow or other ambient light sources, and uses the light to clearly display objects in detail in very dark conditions. The COTI uses heat energy from the Marine’s surroundings to add a thermal overlay which allows the image to be viewed more clearly.
This seems light years ahead of driving with a common joint electronics Portable Visual Detecting or Range and Bearing, Search (AN/PVS)