Hella lights the way ahead

Hella is developing a lighting system to replace the communication between driver and pedestrian when cars become autonomous.

Before pedestrians cross the road in front of an oncoming vehicle, they usually seek eye contact with the driver. This, however, is likely to change when fully automated vehicles are introduced. Therefore another form of human/vehicle communication will be required.

Within the context of the three-year, EU-funded, international interACT research project, launched in May 2017, lighting and electronics expert Hella and its project partners will research how communication between automated and non-automated road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicle drivers, might look for passenger cars in the urban environment.

When it comes to communication between humans and vehicles, lighting plays a particularly important role.

‘However, today’s lighting systems inside and outside the vehicle are not currently sufficient to replace eye contact, gestures or language,’ said Dr Michael Kleinkes, vice president of development lighting and innovation at Hella. ‘This project will therefore research and develop a system which can reliably accomplish this.’

The researchers will initially define which situations require communication and then endeavour to find the best possible way to achieve these goals, whether through projections, symbols or colours.

Dr Michael Kleinkes continued, ‘Communication must after all, not only work at night, but also during the day. Furthermore, it should be clear, intuitive and work internationally.’

Hella will then create a prototype and integrate the lighting modules inside a vehicle. To make this possible, the project partners will use their combined skills and experience to contribute to the overall solution.