When Volkswagen was designing its upcoming ID family of battery-electric cars, it wanted to create an anthropomorphic bond between passengers and vehicle. To do that, VW concluded, the car would have to be more than an inanimate object that responds to commands. It would need to sense its surroundings and interact on a personal level.
Volkswagen exterior lighting designer Sandra Sturmat and her team started with a technological blank slate to build a lighting experience for owners. The resulting system, which brings together sensors, the vehicle's LED headlights and its keyless entry systems, will detect when the driver is approaching and "wake up" its headlights with an animation sequence that looks as though the vehicle has just awakened from a nap and is looking in the direction of the key fob.
The interaction continues inside the vehicle. An LED light bar runs across the cockpit and changes color to quickly communicate according to function. When paired with navigation, it blinks to signal upcoming lane change recommendations. It responds to voice commands with different colors, depending on whether the driver or a passenger is speaking.
It also visually indicates the vehicle's current charging level and driving dynamics, and gives a sharp red warning when braking is required.
"This use of light makes the vehicle more personable and is a very simple and intuitive way of communicating," said Valentina Wilhelm, user experience designer at Volkswagen.