LEDs Lead the Way for Smarter Cars

Intelligent cars may seem to be a step in the direction of science fiction, but with advances in LED technology, it’s only a matter of time before these innovations become more fact than fantasy. With so many recent innovations in LED technology, it seems that there are no limits to its applications and use. One of the more imaginative and intriguing research projects are those currently focused on developing LED systems that will encode signals in LED light to create cars that are able to send signals to each other.

To accomplish this, researchers at Intel have been experimenting with a system known as visible light communication (VLC). VLC systems depend on a method of light transmittance known as Li-Fi. Li-Fi is a directional light system where signals and messages can be transmitted by light to special receivers (e.g. cameras). In a VLC system light modulates quicker than a human eye can pick up, however, a camera is capable of picking up the emitted light signals. Eventually researchers hope that these light modulations can be used as an inexpensive way for cars to send signals to each other that will help avoid collisions, help reposition the vehicle, dim bright headlights, and maybe even set the stage for autonomous driving in the future.

Some of the challenges to VLC Li-Fi systems are that currently cameras need an unrestricted view of the modulating light source in order to accurately pick up signals. Since this is not always possible when driving due to time of day, amount of ambient light, weather, terrain and distance; VLC is still undergoing a significant amount of testing to overcome these obstacles. Researchers are hopeful and have already been working on solutions to these problems and met with a number of promising results. The next step in testing is to incorporate these systems in test cars and see how they perform in initial road tests. With more and more cameras being built into new model cars, the addition of VLC could lead to a whole new way to increase safety while driving.

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