Always in the Right Light

Tomorrow’s interior lighting is customized, context-based and smart

The interior lighting in vehicles has a major impact on our mood and sense of well-being. Especially in a world of autonomous driving, it will be important to provide vehicle occupants with the right ambience – tailored to the individual wherever possible. IAV presented its concept for context-based lighting at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and is currently working on new functions that will be on display in a test vehicle in 2018.

Light has a powerful impact on people. It has a major influence on bodily functions, such as the metabolism, and can encourage moods, such as sleepiness or motivation, or can work against them. It plays a key part in automotive engineering – after all, interior lighting is not only an important mark of distinction for the vehicle manufacturer but also extremely relevant to safety. Under no circumstances must the driver be dazzled or distracted. Vehicle lighting should also take account of current weather conditions and ambient light levels.

Lighting zones tailored to every vehicle occupant

Autonomous driving will see growing demands on interior lighting. “The car will increasingly turn into a living and work room”, reports Sven Bogdanow, head of the Light and Vision department at IAV. “It will be important to provide vehicle occupants with the right interior lighting, e.g. for a conversation or rest period during a journey.” Lighting that is individually tailored to suit each occupant: greater spatial resolution of the lighting system can, for instance, give both back-seat passengers their own customized lighting zones.

But personalization will not stop there. In future, vehicles will access a user’s ID on the smartphone to identify who has just got in. A user profile in the cloud then provides the car with personal key data and preferences, including the occupant’s age, his or her favorite colors and the level of interior brightness wanted. This way, allowance can automatically be made for cultural differences. Whereas in Western countries, red is a color that signalizes danger, in China it represents good luck or fortune.

Sensors monitor physical state

People, however, are not always in the same physical state or frame of mind. Sometimes they tire and want to use the journey for relaxing. Contextbased interior lighting can take account of this as well. “Sensors in heart-rate monitors or eyetracking systems in the vehicle let us identify whether an occupant happens to be in an alert state or whether that person is tired, and adjust lighting accordingly”, explains Bogdanow. “Even today, OEMs use eye-tracking and driver steering intervention analysis for detecting tiredness.”

IAV provided a look at future context-based interior lighting at CES in Las Vegas. The demo vehicle on show there has an LED roofliner that is capable of generating many different lighting scenarios. It can recognize occupants via their wearables and automatically adapt to their current state. It can also cater to occupants’ unusual lighting requests, such as a dynamic star-spangled sky in the vehicle – significantly improving the sense of well-being even on a dull fall evening.

“Our demo vehicle generated some highly positive feedback in Las Vegas”, Bogdanow says. “Visitors from Asia in particular were enthusiastic and wanted to buy the system there and then.” Bogdanow and his colleagues are currently working on the second version of the demonstrator which will be shown in 2018 and geared specifically to the demands of an autonomous vehicle – including automatic occupant identification, biometric recognition of physical state and customized lighting zones for individual passengers.

Artificial intelligence identifies new preferences

It is important for tomorrow’s context-based, intelligent interior lighting that it must assist occupants and not manipulate them. “This is why we are currently conducting studies with test persons”, Bogdanow says. “In future, interior lighting will need to know a vehicle occupant’s preferences in various situations. For instance, test persons may at some point wish to get another color.” Artificial intelligence will then enable the system to identify these changes – e.g. using vehicle occupants’ cloudbased data – and automatically address them.