Lighting is rapidly evolving from a purely functional or decorative element to becoming the key part of the man/machine interface. As vehicles become autonomous and connected lighting can serve as a familiar and comforting way to communicate both within and outside of the vehicle.
The future of lighting is to not only allow the personalization and customization of vehicles, but to have it as a key element in vehicle connectivity, says Techniplas, a leading provider of lighting technology to the automotive industry. Techniplas technology featured in a number of displays at CES 2017. Faraday Futures’ new concept vehicle, the FF 91, which was unveiled at CES 2017, featured Techniplas’ external lighting. In addition, Techniplas partnered with renowned automotive think-tank Rinspeed to create Oasis, which also debuted at CES 2017.
The self-driving Swiss vehicle is intended to push the envelope on autonomous thinking. In a recent review of the Oasis in New Atlas, they said Oasis is Rinspeed’s 23rd concept car and represents a growing partnership between Rinspeed and Techniplas. “Lighting has really not changed that much since the car was first introduced in the beginning of the last century”, says Kim Korth, CEO of Techniplas. “It has been used for strictly functional applications such as headlights, taillights or interior dials and bezels. What we are demonstrating on the Oasis is the future of lighting as a game changer for vehicle connectivity, utility, personalization and communication”.
Techniplas is working with Faraday from concept to prototypes to eventual full production. “Lighting has historically been thought of as primarily functional, something to distinguish one vehicle from another and deepen the visual aspect of the brand,” said Korth. “While the exterior lighting on the Faraday FF 91 clearly accomplishes that, it takes lighting to a much higher level by becoming a key part of the vehicle’s ability to communicate; to other vehicles, to pedestrians, and to the outside world.”
Techniplas creates planar light sources by combining LEDs with creatively shaped light guides and then uses proprietary software to create specific brightness distributions to achieve unique effects such as illuminated seat inserts in the Rinspeed ΣTOS where certain symbols appear between the seat back and headrest only when the back light is on, or extremely thin and practically invisible light guides serving as a hidden third brake light in the rear window.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Korth what solutions the company is developing for connected vehicles.
Korth: Techniplas has been involved in lighting for years. We have worked with think-tanks like Rinspeed to advance lighting concepts, and then we take the concepts and make them production ready in a very short period of time. We work with most of the premium OEMs on a regular basis to push the envelope in terms of design applications. We are at the forefront of using lighting on the exterior of the vehicle. Examples include the FF 91 front fascia lighting, the Rinspeed Budii front grille embedded LED-arrays or the multi-layer lights in the tailgate.
AI: What Techniplas lighting was used on the Faraday Future FF 91 and Rinspeed Oasis?
Korth: In the FF 91 we used Techniplas’ two key technologies (microstructure elements and proprietary simulation software) to provide ultra-thin light modules with the minimum number of LEDs. On the Rinspeed Oasis the use of an embedded microstructure in a multi-layer planar light-guide was shown for the first time. AI then asked Steffen Reuter, VP of Innovation for Techniplas, how Techniplas is helping spur the transformation happening in vehicle lighting.
Reuter: Techniplas is a leader in lighting technology as demonstrated by the new lighting on the Faraday FF 91. We are always looking for technologies and innovations which enable the technology to go in new and different directions.
AI: What role does lighting play in the autonomous vehicle?
Reuter: Lighting will be at the core of the changes the autonomous vehicle represents. A few examples:
- To signal to pedestrians when a vehicle is in autonomous mode. Today, pedestrians make eye contact with the driver before entering the street. Having a color displayed when the vehicle is in autonomous mode replaces that interface.
- Interior lighting will assist the driver/passenger to deal with certain circumstances while driving. Particularly the handover from the autonomous to the non-autonomous driving mode would be the most critical and sensitive phase. Lighting makes this maneuver more intuitive and safer.
AI: What are some of the lighting applications you envisage for autonomous vehicles – such as for safety, security and communication with a car’s environment?
Reuter: The applications include:
- Illuminated front fascia / light panels embedded in the front grille
- Door claddings
- Tailgate light panels
- Exterior accent covers with visible communication features
- Side / rear windows
AI: Tell us about the Techniplas cognitive products and systems that are enabling connected and autonomous vehicles.
Reuter: There are numerous potential lighting applications. We are working on, for example, the ability to connect your smartphone with the embedded electronics in your vehicle so you can download your own patterns and colors to the system.
AI: Bottom line – will lighting help sell more cars?
Reuter: The car is becoming an extension of personal brand. People identify with their car like they do their smart phone—expecting it to be highly customized and personalized. Light creates atmosphere, enhances familiarity, and conveys a sense of elegance and quality. With the rapid evolution of the automotive industry, designers need innovative, customized solutions based on advanced products and superior technologies. Techniplas has extensive experience in lighting and other forms of vehicle personalization, and works closely with its customers to develop solutions for the most demanding applications. With a long history of collaboration with premium OEMs, we are able to develop creative solutions for many different requirements. Techniplas is a strong partner whose ideas are often ahead of the market.