VW's future cars could feature headlights that project info on the road
A look at Volkswagen's Evolution of Light project. © Volkswagen
Volkswagen engineers and designers are currently testing a set of interactive HD-LCD headlights and tail-light clusters that project information on the road to enhance driver and pedestrian safety.
Certainly, we could all use more help seeing at night while we drive; it can be difficult to see pedestrians, know the intentions of other drivers, and sometimes even see the road under poor weather conditions both day and night. To combat these vision-related road difficulties, Volkswagen is developing new head and taillights that can help drivers understand one another and passersby, as well help with individual challenges like seeing the road at night or parallel parking.
The HD-LCD headlights that are undergoing testing on a VW Touareg feature a new lighting function: the ability to project information on the road via 30,000 light points. Specifically, Volkswagen is using this technology to enable systems like "Optical Lane Assist," which projects lanes on the road ahead (and even follows the curves) as wide as the vehicle to help the driver understand the width and position of the car with respect to road lane markings.
VW taillights are also being reinvented to increase driver safety with a new matrix tail light cluster system. A warning system will be incorporated into the lights to alert other drivers on the road of dangerous situations "using car-to-car communication," for instance to indicate a traffic jam. Meanwhile, "Optical Park Assist" will help the driver maneuver into a parking place by projecting the vehicle's path which will let people on foot know which areas are in the line of fire.
The company has built a 100-metre long tunnel at its Wolfsburg, Germany plant just to tackle these types of challenges and test new designs. According to VW, such a construction is "an ideal place to investigate how drivers and pedestrians perceive light," allowing tests to be reproduced and repeated as necessary.
The future of vehicle safety through lighting technology has not been greatly exploited yet -- we see car manufacturers capitalizing on alternate driver assist methods such as rear cameras and proximity alerts that only assist the driver -- and this is a step in an innovative direction to bring safety beyond the body of the vehicle.
No timeframe has been revealed for the development of the smart lighting system.