In eight to ten years numerous fully automated or even autonomous cars will be on the roads. That begs the question whether they still need lights at all. Or will radars and the like be the eyes?
The clear answer to that is: yes, these vehicles will still have headlights and other lights. But in many cases it’ll be a different lighting technology than the one we know. No, we don’t mean a different way of generating light; LEDs should be the predominant light source. We mean aspects such as light distribution.
But let’s start at the beginning. Fully automated cars will have similar headlights to the ones we know today. At least we should be able to operate them the same way. The reason is simple. While fully automated vehicles can move without the help of a driver, that won’t be the case everywhere. There’ll be instances, roads and regions where a driver will continue to turn the wheel, which will then obviously be on board for this purpose. And where humans steer, their eyes will need light that is adapted to them. For fully automatic driving, the “eyes” of automatic cars may well get light which can be switched and is adapted to them. Additional long-range infrared headlights are a possibility, emitting light which only appropriate cameras will see and which computers will evaluate.
The lights may be slightly different in an autonomous car. There may well be no option to steer it manually the old-fashioned way. Lighting technology can then be optimized to the sensors of the car. But it won’t go as far as disturbing the compatibility with the rest of the traffic.
Because it’s important that non-automated road users – of which there’ll still be plenty in 2025 – can still recognize the car as usual. Just think of pedestrians. So rear lights, indicators and position lights will not become extinct. At most, the light distribution in headlights might change for autonomous driving, but not so much that they would dazzle others.
There is another strong reason why all cars driving automatically in some shape or form will be on the roads with lights. We’re talking about humans. They won’t be prepared to be transported through the night completely blind – at least not any time soon. That means that car lights still have a great future.