BMW Patents Projector Puddle Lights That Are Visible In All Light Conditions

Scoop / 14 Comments

Ever noticed how puddle lights are nearly invisible during the day but clear at night? This invention aims to fix the daytime problem.

In a patent registered with the World Intellectual Property Office, CarBuzz has discovered that BMW is working on a new way to project light that should make it possible to see images and information in most light conditions.

In the BMW iX, for example, the puddle lighting system forms a dynamic light carpet on the floor alongside the car, which you can see below. It looks amazing, but it only works effectively when there is low ambient lighting, as the projection to the floor is not strong enough for clear images to be visible in broad daylight. And even when it is visible in the daytime, it's not as clear as at night.

BMW's solution is to fit a system with a new type of projector that can vary its angle and breadth of eminence based on the surrounding light conditions and how much usable space there is alongside the vehicle.

Naturally, the manufacturer logo is the most obvious application for ideas like these, especially in an age where light signatures are arguably more important than badges.


The invention is based on the same sort of lighting system you find in a headlight or taillight, which is far stronger than regular puddle lighting systems, and it would include an actuator to vary how far the light would shine. It would also use a light or rain sensor to determine the ambient lighting conditions and adjust its output based thereupon.

The idea is that when the exterior of the car is cloaked in darkness, the puddle lights could work as normal and project light as far as possible over as wide an area as possible. When there is a lot of ambient light, the actuator projects less of the image or information or reduces the size of the light footprint so that what is displayed is not distorted or difficult to see.

And if the system should detect that some of the image or information would be obscured (perhaps because of a traffic cone alongside the car, for example), the projector would reduce the breadth of its reach, again preventing a muddling of the image or information.


The image above shows how the light fades the further it gets from its point of origin.

The patent document does not limit this technology to adjacent puddle lighting and could use it on any part of the car, potentially projecting information backward or forward. Interestingly, BMW notes that the system may take note of traffic signs to determine light levels, which suggests that it would be put into practice while the car is on the move as well as when stationary.

We've seen similar ideas presented by Ford, which designed headlights that could shine speed limits or other traffic warnings onto the road ahead. Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, and Volkswagen have come up with similar ideas too.

The difference with BMW is that its invention could allow images and info to be visible in nearly all light conditions.

The way lights are being used is continually evolving; Land Rover may soon use them to create a party atmosphere outside the car.


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