Skoda is testing traffic lights with a grille on autonomous vehicles
The German-owned Czech automaker Skoda is working on an interesting feature for its (autonomous) vehicles: a traffic warning system mounted on the front grill tells pedestrians whether it is safe to cross the street.
Installing a traffic light in front of a moving car may seem redundant and useless, everyone knows that the various rules and laws of the road, around the world, are unanimously agreed that cars stop, pedestrians cross the street, and vice versa, but both obey one regulatory mechanism - a traffic light .
However, Skoda is introducing a new road paradigm: autonomous cars, and the system is not addressed to the general public, but to a more vulnerable circle of pedestrians: children, the elderly and the disabled.
The human-machine interface (HMI) consists of a grille-mounted LED panel displaying simple and concise symbols that are easy to understand, visible and familiar.
The concept is relatively simple: a driverless self-driving car can detect when people want to cross the street. The car will then stop and the LED screen will show a sequence of green arrows and a figure of a walking person.
Skoda refers to currently used landmarks, such as the color of the light signal (green, which is also present at all traffic lights, indicates the right of way) or the shape of the symbols - the arrow is also easily recognizable.
On the other hand, if the car calculates that it cannot stop at a safe distance, a warning triangle of red light is displayed to warn bystanders that it is not safe to cross the street.
Skoda tested this system on the Enyaq iV model (in a closed and controlled environment) using eye-tracking goggles to analyze participants' focus times and points. The results showed that the front grille is the most suitable area for installing the HMI display.
As innovative as it is, this passive safety mechanism - still in beta testing - is far from having a real practical application in cars - for two main reasons. First, the lack of a legal framework to standardize all the various aspects.
For example, civilian vehicles are not allowed to have any colored lights front and rear. Therefore, green and especially red colors are currently prohibited. Secondly, the installation of the LED panel on the grille. While this would not be a problem for electric vehicles, it would make it difficult for internal combustion engines to take in air. However, this is a far-fetched assumption based on the assumption that future cars will continue to use piston power (and have autonomous capabilities at the same time).