Bigger can be better when it comes to autonomous vehicles, even if it’s only a half-step.
That’s the message from Magna at CES 2021 this week as the company introduces the Mezzo Panel, a decorated front fascia panel that will enable better ADAS technologies and AVs, even if they are designed with their own distinct look.
The Mezzo Panel – mezzo means “half” in Italian – grew out of other Magna products such as the no-joining-required radar covers and the LumiGrille, which also puts sensors and micro-LEDs behind a thin translucent polycarbonate panel.
The best way to understand the Mezzo Panel is to think of it as a “large-format lens” that integrates lighting technologies, sensors and cameras using in-mold film, says Mark Pilette, global product line manager-exteriors for Magna.
The result is a front fascia that will help bring electric and autonomous vehicles to market without sacrificing aesthetics, he says.
The panel also could be used on traditional internal-combustion vehicles, but that would require more thinking about where the sensors would be placed because of different airflow requirements in those vehicles.
“Mezzo, meaning middle, truly is the midpoint in our technology roadmap,” Pilette says.
Magna’s next step, due to be unveiled at CES next year, is the Magna Vision Panel, a front module that stretches between a vehicle’s front corners and combines all of the functional and decorative systems into one piece that OEMs can refine to meet their brand identity and design needs.
Magna shows off a 3.3-ft. -wide (1 m) prototype of the Mezzo Panel with hidden-until-lit diamond-shaped lights during this week’s virtual CES; an automaker could use these LEDs for its own unique animated sequence lighting.
Being prepared for whatever automakers will want their front ends to look like with a Mezzo Panel installed means the supplier had to design it with numerous opportunities for differentiation in mind.
“It’s truly customizable,” Pilette says. “You could use almost any shape possible. The decoration technologies include chrome effects, printed ink effects and we can mold three-dimensional effects into this panel as well.”
The Mezzo Panel (pictured below) typically will be made with a polycarbonate outer surface, Pilette says, but it could be multilayered as well. Which material is used will be based on what Magna and the OEMs are trying to integrate into the panel, and additional thermoplastics could be added to the back side.
Magna acknowledges the panel will create limitations for cameras that try to peer through it, which means there will be tiny openings in the panel for those lenses.
For lidar, though, these gaps might not be required. Magna is doing more research to understand the effects of the panel on the laser signal, and the company hasn’t committed to a specific time frame for the Mezzo Panel’s launch.
Pilette believes this work won’t prevent Magna from offering any design requested by an OEM. “If we take into consideration where the sensors are, we can absolutely integrate shape into these panels,” he says.
Magna currently offers other front fascia products including visible and non-visible active grille shutters for improved aerodynamics and numerous sensor devices, including ways to detect if a lens is dirty.