Ford Trials AV Lighting Communication System

Ford has tested a lighting system it hopes will allow autonomous vehicles to communicate with other road users.

The automaker collaborated with Chemnitz University of Technology (CUT) on testing of a roof-mounted light bar on a Transit Connect van that flashed when the van was about to begin driving, give way, or move forward. However, rather than being driven autonomously, the test van was driven by a concealed human driver made to look like they are a part of the driver’s seat. Ford says the aim of this was to make other road users respond to it as if it was an actual AV. The concealed driver observed the road through a fake head rest and indicated using “a special lever”.

173 road users have been surveyed by Ford as to whether they found purple, white, or turquoise the most effective color to be flashed from the van and whether they thought the vehicle was an AV. Ford claims 60% of respondents thought it was. More respondents said turquoise would be the best color for the system to flash rather than purple or white.

The system can be viewed as building upon similar ones recently previewed by Hyundai and Jaguar Land Rover. However, unlike Ford’s testing of purple, turquoise, or white lights projected from a van, Hyundai’s system involves the projection of red light and JLR’s has been trialed on autonomous ‘pods’.

Ford says the research that went into its system was a development of research it conducted in 2017 alongside the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. It says it also collaborated with automotive electronics maker HELLA on researching potential locations for the system other than the van’s roof including the headlamps and grille but “no clear preference emerged”.

Dr Matthias Beggiato from CUT commented: “The next step is to look at how we can ensure the light signals are made clearer and more intuitive”.

 


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