In a future where self-driving cars will rely entirely on their sensors and cameras, it seems that light-colored cars may hold the upper hand.
With sensors such as the laser light-mapping system (LiDAR), light-colored vehicles can be detected more easily than dark ones, reports USA Today.
“When we test colors… we know that highly reflective colors are more easily detectable by LiDAR systems,” stated Nancy Lockhart, marketing exec for automotive paint supplier Axalta Coating Systems.
Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that dark-colored cars will be history since there are systems that can obviously detect them. However, in order to do that properly, a car needs extra sensors. So in the early years of fully-autonomous driving, it’s possible that automakers will favor light colors over more intricate ones.
Axalta is currently experimenting with inserting flakes into dark-colored paints in order to make them more reflective.
“Color sells,” added Lockhart. “I don’t think we’re going to come into this world blanketed by plain-Jane colors.”
Another paint company, PPG Industries, is working with technologies used for high-tech coatings on airplane fuselages. According to PPG chief technical officer David Bem, the company is hoping to make black 20% to 30% more reflective by going beyond the visible color spectrum.
“People buy cars based on how they look,” added Bem, acknowledging that preserving dark-colored vehicles is critical despite the fact that light-colored cars could reduce autonomous tech costs since they would require fewer sensors.
Aside from taking color into account, paint companies also need to adapt their products to help self-driving cars avoid dirt buildup since it’s important that a car’s sensors remain clutter-free so that they don’t give out any false signals.
It seems like there are still some issues the automotive industry has to resolve before they actually deliver the fully-autonomous cars that are supposed to be all the rage. However, no matter what marketing people might say, the self-driving car still has some way to go before it hits our driveway.