A recent study by the American Automobile Association found 71% of Americans are afraid to ride in a self-driving car.
What’s the problem? Some people simply don’t trust the technology and fear an accident. For others, it’s a question of comfort. For example, when an autonomous car starts, stops or veers, what will keep them from flopping over to the side or suffering from motion sickness?
Today’s drivers are facing forward, eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel, focused on the task of driving. This engagement, and the knowledge that they are going to turn left here or right there, gives drivers a chance to prepare their bodies physically for what is coming next – so they don’t tilt over when making a sharp turn or succumb to car sickness.
But in the autonomous vehicles of the future, we will often find ourselves in the position of not knowing what is going to happen next and not having time to prepare for what is coming.
Plus, as the world moves closer to autonomous driving, both drivers and passengers will inevitably be focused on infotainment systems in their cars or on personal electronic devices and will be paying less attention to what is happening on the road.
In fact, a recent study posed this question: If you were to ride in a completely self-driving vehicle, what would you do with the available time?
While 35.5% of U.S. respondents said they would still be watching the road, a similar number (33.4%) said they would be engaged in other activities, such as working, watching movies, texting with friends or playing games.
In other countries, that number was even higher, with 49.3% of Chinese respondents and 55.9% of Indian respondents saying they would engage in these activities.
The good news: A peripheral-vision communication system powered by next-generation LEDs can help passengers feel more comfortable, and even less car sick, by providing an understanding of what their vehicle is doing on the road at any given moment – even while they’re immersed in other activities.
For instance, LED lighting can produce images within the interior that change as the vehicle moves. These peripheral patterns could mimic the light and dark shadows of the trees or buildings that are passing by outside the vehicle. This impression of movement on the periphery can minimize motion sickness and give the rider a more secure feeling, even when staring at a phone screen for lengthy periods.
At the same time, these interior LEDs, which can be adjusted to different colors and intensities, will provide subtle clues that the vehicle is about to sharply turn or brake quickly.
So even though a rider may be immersed in their favorite movie, they have enough information in their peripheral vision to know what the car is going to do and prepare their body for, say a hard left turn, by reflexively tightening their core.
The LEDs can be embedded in the door, windshield, seats, center console or anywhere else in the vehicle, providing peripheral-vision stimuli that can be detected by riders whose attention is focused on other things.
Osram Opto Semiconductors and the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently conducted a study to learn more about the ways vehicle occupants perceive various lighting cues and how different combinations of light colors, intensities, locations, sizes, speeds and resolutions of motion are detected by vehicle occupants.
Though still in its early stages, the research shows interior LEDs can indeed provide visual cues and helpful signals for passengers whose attention is not focused on the road. The right lighting at the right time can provide peripheral-vision stimuli that can be detected by passengers when their attention has shifted and make them feel more comfortable and secure in the vehicle.
The reality: In an autonomous future, vehicle occupants will be performing tasks unrelated to driving but still will require information about the roadway environment. LED lighting can solve many of the key concerns people have about autonomous vehicles and better prepare the world for a self-driving future.
Kimberly Peiler (pictured above, left) is Sr. Application Engineering Manager in North America for Osram Opto Semiconductors. Her expertise includes automotive illumination and display.