DETROIT – Automotive lighting is transforming from simple dome lamps and map lights into illumination that can affect comfort, improve safety and assist in the transition to an autonomous future.
Panelists here at the 2016 WardsAuto Interiors Conference discussing “Bright Ideas and Brainstorms” in automotive lighting raise those possibilities, among a plethora of options for automakers looking to integrate and make better use of lighting in future vehicles.
“Who can really say where we’re going with technology – everything is evolving so fast,” says Roberto Bastida, projects director-Hella Lighting.
Bastida says Hella is focused on lighting that assists drivers and passengers, such as reading lights integrated into seating, color-coded light-piping across a dashboard serving as a warning signal, and warm and welcoming lighting to create a comfortable environment.
“You can see in the (10 Best Interiors awards) winners on display, ambient lighting really makes a difference in the interior,” Bastida says, citing the dynamic interior lighting in the’16 Chevrolet Camaro as a good example.
Integrating lighting into surfaces such as headliners is the latest element under development at EFI Lighting, in a joint venture with Lyon, France-based Brochier Technologies, says Roch de Preneuf, business development director-EFI Lighting.
Pin spot and linear lighting have their places in automotive interiors, de Preneuf says, but his company’s light-emitting fabric, called Lightex, is the next step. Lightex technology uses optical fibers woven into the fabric, driven by a single LED.
The fabric is thin, lightweight, flexible, can be personalized with different colors and brightness, and can be applied to a variety of leather or fabrics to create an individualized interior ambience.
Future applications might use Lightex to communicate information via light without the driver having to focus on a specific instrument or display.
“It uses a more intuitive part of the brain,” de Preneuf says.
Global Tier 1 supplier Yanfeng is looking into the future to develop interiors for coming semi- and fully autonomous vehicles, says Tyler Newkirk, senior designer-Yanfeng Automotive Systems.
In Level 3 autonomous vehicles, 80% of drive time will be available for other pursuits by the driver and passengers, Newkirk notes.
“Why can’t the interior help us use that time more effectively?” he asks. “What will people want to do when they don’t have to drive? We’re looking at the autonomous segment and the car-sharing segment.”
In those vehicles, lighting can set a tone and convey information, with the interior illumination changing based on who is in car, the time of day and personal preferences.
What’s in the future? Look for gesture-controlled lighting, predictive lighting and movement of light – actually dimming, mixing and changing of light sources to produce the appearance of movement – to grow in importance, the panelists predict.