Lights will guide us home, so says the Coldplay song

Hyundai Mobis, the parts and services division of Korean auto giant, took part in the festivities of the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show with a concept that embraces the role that lights play — yes, lights — in improving the safety of autonomous driving vehicles. Called the Communication Lighting Concept, the coupe-like creation’s importance isn’t grounded in its appearance, but more so in the technology it carries. In this case, the concept is equipped with an assortment of lights and displays that it uses to communicate its intentions to pedestrians and commuters alike, alerting them of potential dangers and hazards on the road. Hyundai Mobis says that the technology can be rolled out in a quick and cost-effective manner, though that would still depend on the willingness of automakers to incorporate the technology into their own vehicles.

Hyundai Mobis Touts High-Tech Lighting System as the Key to Safety Among Autonomous Driving Cars
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What Hyundai Mobis is presenting sounds so revolutionary in the vacuum of autonomous driving technology, and yet, it really is just a modern approach to an age-old automotive idea. The use of lights as safety measures in the auto industry has been around for a long time, manifested mostly in the turn signals and the brake lights of a car.

When you want to make a right or left turn, the turn signals are reminders to other motorists of your intentions.

Similarly, brake lights are there to let the car behind you know that you’re slowing down or, at least in some instances, stopping abruptly. In essence, the idea of using lighting systems as safety mechanisms is as old as the history of the industry itself.

And yet, The Communication Lighting Concept that Hyundai Mobis is presenting is potentially ground-breaking because it uses modern means to convey an autonomous-driving car’s intentions to pedestrians and motorists. It’s not signals anymore; it’s displays. The headlights, for example, can project a “bright red wearing symbol” to alert pedestrians that it is unsafe to move in front of a vehicle. When the vehicle stops, the headlights project a crosswalk symbol onto the ground to let pedestrians know that it’s safe to cross a street. The concept effectively adapts the functions of a stop light and crossing light into its own. As I said, it’s a modern approach to an old idea.

Hyundai Mobis Touts High-Tech Lighting System as the Key to Safety Among Autonomous Driving Cars
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To be fair, the Communication Lighting Concept also comes with modern safety features that have yet to be used in meaningful ways by the industry.

For instance, the concept can also detect pedestrians from more than 450 feet away, and once it does that, it can show pedestrians, through LED boards that show a directional arrow, what direction it’s going.

Another new feature is the “Indicating Lighting Zone,” which informs pedestrians and motorists that it is operating in autonomous driving mode. There’s also a countdown timer in the concept that indicates how much time is left before it starts moving again. Notice that a lot of crossing signs already have that feature?

On the one hand, the Communication Lighting Concept’s features are modern adaptations of light safety measures that we already have on the road. But the real trick that Hyundai Mobis achieved is finding new use for these traditional safety lights as tools that a vehicle can carry with it. It’s not a ground-breaking technology by any means, but rather, it’s an evolution of an existing technology that carries the same purpose of saving lives and improving safety conditions on the road.

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