Volkswagen has just shown off something on the brighter side. A concept for head and taillights with a message. One that could help contribute to increased traffic safety.
Modern LED lighting puts multiple or even dozens of diodes into every light fixture. That means more light down the road in modern cars, but it also opens up more opportunities for what automakers can do with the light units. So VW is looking at some of those opportunities and how they can improve communication between vehicles or help make driving easier.
The first is shown on a Touareg SUV. It's optical lane assist. The headlights project lane markers onto the road. The markers don't match up to the road, but rather the width of the SUV. So it will let you know if you can squeeze through that gap between the double parked cars or not. It can follow the radius of a curve or even widen to remind you just how much trailer is sticking out behind you. VW is testing that feature with HD-LCD headlight technology.
The company is also showing off LED taillight cluster messages. Instead of a block of lights, the LED matrix clusters could show a message. Like battery state of charge when you're parked. Or an alert to those behind you that you aren't just slowing, but are actually at the back of a traffic jam and you're going to stop suddenly on the highway. VW hints at "customized signatures" as well, so you might be able to leave, let's say, other types of messages for other drivers.
Also in the rear, optical parking sensors will project your path onto the road. That makes it easier to reverse into a space, but can also let other pedestrians and drivers see where you're planning to reverse.
To help develop this lighting tech, VW has opened a new light tunnel. The centre of lighting excellence at the Wolfsburg plant is a 100m long, 15m wide, and five meter tall tunnel where road simulations can be run to monitor light output and test how drivers and pedestrians respond to various signals. That helps them get it into production more quickly when these fancy lighting ideas are ready for the road.