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Continental enhances ambient lighting

Warning sign: New technology developed by Continental could see lights embedded into interior vehicle surfaces illuminate to warn occupants of dangers.

LED-embedded interior surfaces from Continental can be used to warn drivers

3 Jul 2017


CONTINENTAL has developed a new way to achieve ambient lighting in the car cabin and, as well as enhancing the mood, the new system could be an important adjunct to the safety warning systems in cars.

The new technology embeds LEDs in the interior surface materials, which Continental has made translucent without altering their performance in terms of durability and other criteria.

This means that the seat coverings, the door panels, even the dashboard, could be used to generate ambient light in the cabin. The new translucent material, called Acella Hylite, was unveiled at the Continental TechShow in Hannover.

Using the established interior trim materials means that, with the new lighting system built in, they still meet all the standards set down by the car-makers said Continental engineer Stefan Herrmann.

“So it’s actually basically the same and it meets all the requirements like scratch resistance, flame retardant and such things,” he said.

Mr Herrmann said the new system opened up new design possibilities for interior designers and also new applications for interior lighting.

“If you visit auto shows, you will always some models that somehow have interior lighting, usually with a slim line of light visible,” he said.

“Imagine this on the complete dashboard, on the seat, the headrest. Of course it is only limited by the designer. You can also change the colours, depending on the light source.”

Mr Herrmann said the new system would give the driver the opportunity of better suiting the interior to his or her current mood.

“In the morning, when you need some energy, you can have some energising light, you can adapt everything to your mood,” he said.

“You go to your nightclub and you can make the colors match your music in the car. There’s a lot of interesting applications. It depends on how you manage the light.”

However, Mr Herrmann said the new system could have serious applications in improving safety while driving.

“Personally, with this one, I think you could integrate warning signs and alerts just in case you have a risky situation like you are driving into an animal, a cow, on the street and your whole dashboard lights up red and blinks,” he said.

“For me this is a much better use case.”

He said that, with the trend towards electric vehicles and simpler cabins, using the interior furnishings as a warning system could catch on.

“It goes into the direction of switchless, buttonless interiors. If you think about electrified cars, autonomous driving, the whole interior looks different, the whole setup, the whole layout is different.

“That’s a really good use case where we need to differentiate in future.”

Mr Herrmann said a good example would be to use the door surface as a warning system when opening the door.

“When I open my door it might warn me there is another car coming by flashing red,” he said. “For me, there is also potential for warning signs for alerts, for guidance or for a lack of fuel, warning you to go to the gas station.”

The new material could also be a good way for manufacturers to differentiate between models in their ranges, according to Mr Herrmann.

“In our business unit we talk a lot about interior design because all these surface materials are so much design related,” he said.

“The manufacturers’ design departments integrate us really early into their processes because interior design at the moment is what differentiates the car manufacturers and within the model lines.

“If you have a Mercedes C-Class, you have different configurations and it’s usually differences in the interior.”

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