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Autonomous Tech Could Mean Less Colorful Cars

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Photo: PPG

Self-driving cars promise to lend greater convenience to daily life. However, they might also mean less colorful car exteriors in the near future. This is because the LIDAR systems on autonomous vehicles (AVs) have trouble detecting darker, less-reflective paint colors like black. You might think that white would be the best exterior for a vehicle, but that too can cause trouble for LIDAR; too much light reflecting off the car on a sunny day can potentially blind the sensors.

Besides the color of car exteriors, the color of road signs and markings might also need to be modified. For example, white lane lines or parking spot lines, or the white text on stop signs will need to be updated so the sensors can pick up the images.

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Sensor Fusion

More bland colors for cars and transportation is just a prediction, however. (One that hopefully won’t come true.) In more positive news, companies like Axalta and PPG are currently testing an array of colors that LIDAR can “see,” both in clear and inclement weather.

A major challenge to developing these new AV-friendly paint colors is the lack of rules and testing methods. “We’re working as aggressively as the industry will let us, but right now there is no pass or fail.[…] So, we are looking at how do we best detect things,” said Nancy Lockhart, color marketing manager at Axalta Coating Systems in Clinton Township.

Despite these obstacles, Axalta and PPG are confident that vehicle paint technology will soon come up to speed so modern drivers have the best of both worlds: self-driving technology and colorful car exteriors.

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News Sources: UticaodDetroit Free Press