Think of it as traffic sign recognition but specifically for traffic lights.
Running a red light is a fairly common occurrence that can result in a serious crash, so Porsche has come up with an inventive in-vehicle lighting system that mirrors changing traffic lights, thereby giving drivers the best chance of perceiving and reacting to changing traffic lights. The patent was discovered by CarBuzz and filed with the Germany Patent and Trade Mark Office.
While it is no substitute for recklessness, the technology could reduce the chances of driver error whereby distraction or geography causes the driver not to see or respond to a traffic light quickly enough. Besides averting the chance of running a red light, this could also reduce the chance of hazardous emergency braking when spotting a changing light too late; this scenario could result in a rear-end collision.
In the Porsche design, the system makes use of a camera, a light source, and a means of light control inside the car. These lights can be positioned on the top of the instrument cluster but also in other areas of the interior, glowing in red, orange, or green to mimic changing traffic lights.
Porsche states in the patent documentation that the control device that recognizes the traffic light color at any point in time may not be able to reproduce the precise shade in the vehicle interior but that it should be similar enough to be easily perceived by the driver as green, orange, or red.
The light strip will be large enough to be perceived across a large viewing angle, even when the driver isn't looking at the light source directly. By so doing, the "driver is informed about the color of the traffic light system when he is actually busy with something else." In a low car like a 911, seeing a stoplight may also be tricky depending on where it is located in relation to the car.
The light strip can be curved to adapt to differently styled instrument panels. For example, the Porsche Taycan has a wider, broader instrument panel than the 718 Boxster's more compact binnacle.
By extending the light source in a transverse direction, or potentially placing it higher up such as on a sun visor, the changing color can also be perceived when the driver is looking out a side window or straight through the windscreen and not directly at the instrument panel.
Distracted driving is a significant issue in this era of touchscreens, so the logic behind this invention is sound. When a traffic light changes, the difference between a driver reacting a second faster than they normally would could save a life.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, red light running killed 928 people on the roads in 2020, and around 116,000 people were injured in such incidents over the same period of time.
Furthermore, a 2020 telephone survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that although the vast majority of drivers admitted that running a red light is dangerous, 26% of them reported running a red light in the past 30 days.
Porsche's invention, although still at the patent stage, takes existing awareness technologies a step further. Traffic sign recognition and surround-view cameras already exist, while the new BMW 7 Series also uses an interior lighting strip called an Interaction Bar to communicate with the driver; one of this bar's features is linked to the Safe Exit function to alert occupants whether it's safe to get out of the car.
But Porsche's system demands a much faster response time, and it will be intriguing to experience the technology if it ends up in a production model.
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