Before pedestrians cross the road in front of a car, they usually seek eye contact with the driver. This could change in the future. Because when fully automated vehicles are on the road, the person in the driver’s seat may read his mails at that time, and fully automated vehicles do not have such a “human” way of communicating. Therefore, a different kind of communication is needed. In the international research project interACT, lighting and electronics company Hella KGaA (Lippstadt, Germany) is working with project partners to investigate how communication between automated vehicles and non-automated road users such as pedestrians, cyclists and other vehicle drivers could look like. The initial focus of the project lies with situations typical for urban environments and passenger cars.
“Light plays a particularly important role in communication between people and vehicles. But today's existing lighting systems in and around the vehicle are far from being enough to adequately replace eye contact, gestures and language," says Michael Kleinkes, head of lighting technology development at Hella. “Within the scope of the project, we are therefore researching and developing a system that can reliably perform this task.”
The developers first define situations in which communication is necessary. They then explore a method of how best to do this – be it using projections, symbols or colors. An important aspect is that such a communication should be possible at all times of the day. Hella then builds up a prototype and integrates the lighting modules in a vehicle. To make this possible, the partners in the project cover the entire value-added chain.