Hella has designed holographic lighting with 3D effects for headlamps and taillights. Automakers could use the displays to communicate critical information to other drivers and autonomous vehicles. Image shows a concept static display. (Hella)

Lights communicate Hella's autonomous vehicle messages

The technology uses multiple foils with multiple messages and an LED light source. Each specific message is burned onto the holographic film through a photographic process.

Imagine autonomously driven vehicles communicating with the human drivers of other vehicles by non-verbal, easy-to-understand messages. It’s a scenario that has lighting supplier Hella seeing plenty of opportunity for headlights and taillamps.

“If an autonomously driven vehicle fitted with environmental sensors detects a traffic jam several cars ahead of its location, an alert that braking will soon be needed doesn’t reach the driver of a car without such technology. That’s why delivering a message of warning through lighting can be very important,” said Steve Lietaert, President of Hella Corporate Center USA.

Lietaert and other Hella officials spoke with Automotive Engineering during the 2018 North American International Auto Show.

As shown in a demonstration display, the area between the taillights can illuminate to show a written message that’s triggered by a specific driving scenario, according to Steffen Pietzonka, Head of Global Marketing for Lighting, Hella GmbH. “It’s different static image that becomes visible with the illumination of an LED light source, so there are multiple foils with multiple messages,” he noted. Each specific message is burned onto the holographic film through a photographic process.

The entire foil package is approximately 5 mm (0.19-in). Behind these transparent films, each of which contains a message, is the light source. Germany-based Covestro is the supplier of the polymer carrier frame for the flexible, holographic films.

We still have further work that needs to be done, such as solving the manufacturing questions for the films,” Pietzonka said.

Informational alerts would be illuminated whether the vehicle behind the autonomously driven car is or isn’t manned by a human driver.

Hella has also applied the holographic foil concept to the demonstration unit’s tail-lights. The foils can be imprinted with a different pattern—cube-shape, diamond-shape or some other design.  Automaker can facelift the taillights without changing the lens or the optical systems, Pietzonka noted.

On an autonomously driven vehicle, camera-based recognition paired with Hella Aglaia software can detect pedestrians, animals, and other potential dangers in-the-roadway or near-the-roadway.

“We’re using glare-free high-beam highlights to illuminate a pedestrian. The technology ‘cuts-out’ the person’s face, so the person isn’t blinded by the light,” Pietzonka explained. The same concept of detecting and identifying can be applied to an animal’s face.

The company has concept demonstration vehicles fitted with this technology that engineers are driving on roadways in Germany.

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