Autonomous or self-driving cars are revolutionizing the automobile industry. These vehicles move with the help of sensors and can navigate the environment without the assistance of people. The cars detect elements in their environments with the help of laser lights, radar, GPS, and computer vision. An important aspect of these self-driving cars is their coatings.
Why Are Coatings For Autonomous Vehicles Important?
First, it is important to understand that these vehicles have to detect other cars on the road and even see where the road itself is. This is because many cars are moving at top speeds on the highway. They need to be able to communicate with their surroundings as needed.
Visibility of Other Cars
This orderly movement of self-driving cars is made possible mainly by LiDAR. This is the light detection and ranging feature used in these vehicles. This sensor works by sending light rays and calculating the time taken for the light to be reflected back. Cars with darker coatings will not reflect all the light back, and this can cause inaccuracy in the calculations. This means the car can miscalculate the distance to the other vehicle. Unfortunately, the most famous car colors are black and grey, and these are both not very visible to autonomous cars.
That is one of the reasons why correct coatings are important. An innovative coating dubbed the éggplant’ has been designed to improve the visibility of dark cars to autonomous vehicles. This technology features a reflective layer under the dark coating. This way, light doesn’t get absorbed, but instead, it is reflected back to the sensor.
Cleaning the Sensor Systems
These sensors will also get dirty or collect frost and other elements in the environment. Human drivers would simply clear the windows and mirrors in a minute. For these vehicles, cleaning the sensors would cost a lot of money. To reduce this inconvenience, you can simply get a coating that is resistant to dirt. These are a lot easier to clean. In some cases, the coatings are designed to allow elements to slide right off the sensor systems.
Cabin Temperature Management
The coating is also important for cabin temperature management, particularly in autonomous vehicles that use electricity. In such cars, the coating can be designed to increase the total solar reflectivity of the system. This will allow the car to use less fuel and even smaller air conditioners. The total weight of the vehicle will also be reduced.
The battery pack of the self-driving car will also need to be protected from damage by debris from the environment. This means protective coatings will have to be placed under the battery pack. It is also necessary to have heat conducting coatings on top of the battery pack since it can easily overheat.
Self-driving cars are also meant to alter the ownership systems of vehicles. Eventually, more people will simply use these vehicles as modes of transportation from one point to another, more like cabs and taxis. This will bring about a new problem of hygiene. Manufacturers have solved this problem by introducing new coatings for the inside of the car. These coatings will have antibacterial and antiviral properties, meaning the cars will always be clean and hygienic.
Self-driving cars also have to see road signs, dividers and other elements of road infrastructure. Again, these elements are only visible to the cars if they can reflect back the dissipated light. Coatings can be used to make certain elements more visible to the sensors. In many cases, road signs are made too bright since they need to be read by humans.
This poses a new problem since the sensors are not able to detect light at certain wavelengths. The problem can be managed with coatings, although the method is slightly more complicated. The coating here does not help to improve the reflectivity of light. Instead, it is meant to manage the relativity of the wavelengths. That way, the light is not too bright and is, therefore, visible to the autonomous vehicles.
Who Makes These Coatings?
Innovative coatings companies have been at the helm of development to include the technology to manage the relative wavelengths of bright lights. Additionally, they have been able to develop coatings that improve the visibility of other cars, road signs, and other elements of road infrastructure. They have also been able to make coatings that manage the temperature and fuel usage of the vehicles.
Autonomous and electric cars are revolutionizing the automotive industry. Many companies have been involved in transitioning to these vehicles.