Sun glare can seriously compromise a driver’s ability to see vehicle controls and instrument panels, particularly during sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately, this time of year such periods of heightened sun glare coincide with morning and evening rush hours.
But the right vehicle design can mitigate this risk. At Ford Motor Co., engineers use the company’s Visual Performance Evaluation Lab – known internally as the Lighting Lab -– to re-create daylight so they can work to reduce sun glare on vehicle controls and instrument panels.
The Lighting Lab uses a planetarium-like dome to replicate sunlight conditions from dawn to dusk, simulating the phases of the earth’s revolution around the sun. Additional lights lining the perimeter of the dome can be adjusted to simulate the effects of weather conditions.
The designers behind the 2015 Ford Mustang used the Lighting Lab to ensure the car’s newly available aluminum dash panel does not cause glare to drivers under a variety of conditions, and that the instruments found in Mustang’s optional gauge pack are always legible.
“With the Lighting Lab, we can ensure that the first time a buyer sits in the 2015 Ford Mustang, that person will be able to see the interior as the designers originally envisioned it – in the best light possible,” said Mahendra Dassanayake, Ford lighting technical specialist. “Whether the car is parked outside or is sitting on an auto show floor, whether it is a bright, sunny day, or overcast and snowing, the materials and controls in the Mustang will be both visually satisfying and highly functional.”
To conduct an evaluation of switches, clusters, climate controls, navigation systems, radios or entertainment systems, the car or the individual component is first placed in the middle of a large circular space. A switch is then flipped to power on four 1,500-watt lights mounted on a moveable steel arm.
By physically pushing the arm to specific points around the circle’s edge, and adjusting the spotlights and floodlights in the ceiling, the Lighting Lab can simulate light conditions at every time of day, while the additional lighting in the dome is used to vary weather conditions from bright sun to full cloud cover.
These tools allow Ford engineers to re-create any kind of lighting condition found anywhere in the world when they're designing new vehicles. This ability is critical to the development of global products such as the 2014 Ford Fiesta, Ford said.