The automotive industry needs new concepts to meet optical and physical requirements for exterior parts, as signaling and communication become important aspects for a move toward automated driving.
Auto suppliers Marelli and Samvardhana Motherson Automotive Systems Group have formed a new partnership to integrate sensors for advanced driver-assistance systems and autonomous driving in illuminated exterior body parts like front grilles, bumpers and others.
The partnership plans to create translucent, back-lit trim parts and other decorative panels, with LED lighting shining through them at night and taking on the color of the car body in daylight, both partners told Plastics News in a joint statement.
"Parts like front or rear ends, fenders and rocker panels will evolve into smart illuminated body panels that will give vehicles an even stronger brand signature," the joint statement said. "Smart illumination opens new possibilities for OEMs to support diversification of brands and models, also with possible different day and night styles.
"It is becoming more and more important for the authorities to set rules on how to make fully automated cars recognizable," the statement said. "Future illuminated parts offer new openings for this purpose and can be used for communication as well."
While the companies work together to develop parts like bumper fascias, which aren't commonly translucent, out of optical materials, they will also have to meet safety requirements and integrate sensors, like LiDARs, radars and cameras, as autonomous driving systems become required features.
Marelli and Motherson jointly declined to comment on "any specific materials used for certain application" amid the project.
The companies have already started working with several customers, helping OEMs develop parts with specific styling and functional purposes, like different day and night features "within one model range they can distinguish one version from the other," the joint statement said.
"The end use and function of the part is decisive when choosing material or defining the process," it added. "We see the combination of the optical and decorative material technologies and the smart processing of existing ingredients as very promising in the future."