Federal-Mogul Develops Touch-Free Lighting for Vehicle Interiors

Dec. 12, 2011
Innovative technology application reduces design complexity, energy use, driver distraction

Federal-Mogul Corp., a global supplier of leading automotive technologies and innovation, has developed a high-efficiency LED interior lamp that can be operated with a simple wave of the hand. The utilization of this innovative technology provides for improved durability and reduced energy use while eliminating the design constraints of mechanical switches. The company's first application is a touch-free dome lamp that integrates a capacitive sensor into the vehicle's overhead console.

The need to make vehicles more energy efficient and the demand from consumers for premium interiors and personalization is driving growth in the use of LEDs for functional interior and exterior lighting. Federal-Mogul's easy-to-use, touch-free light provides for increased lighting functions and will eliminate the driver's search for the correct mechanical switch in increasingly crowded consoles and instrument panels, enabling more attention to remain focused on the road.

"Federal-Mogul is bringing this new and innovative technology to the automotive market," said Ramzi Hermiz, senior vice president, Federal-Mogul Vehicle Safety and Protection. "We expect our touch-free lighting to enable more freedom for vehicle designers, provide increased durability for vehicle manufacturers and offer a much improved personalized lighting functionality for consumers. We also expect it to help drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel for more of the time, which can improve safety."

Federal-Mogul's touch-free lighting, with a solid state light source, uses capacitive switching technology and offers greater durability and reliability than conventional mechanical switches.

The capacitive proximity sensor functions by detecting the hand's conductivity as it enters a field. The field sensitivity range can be set to function from 0mm to 80mm. As the hand enters the field, the switch is triggered by a change in capacitance caused by the conductivity of iron in the blood. The system continually monitors the environment to calibrate and optimize performance and range. Federal-Mogul's system works even when the operator is wearing gloves, unlike competing technologies, such as infrared proximity sensors.

The touch-free switch also can be programmed to provide additional functions and personalization options. Changes to the light's intensity and color, for example, could be controlled by sliding or tapping a finger on the sensor.

Federal-Mogul's touch-free lighting has an ultra-low power requirement as LEDs, which are becoming more pervasive throughout the automotive industry, consume a fraction of the energy of incandescent light sources — 0.5 watts, instead of 10 watts per source. Coupled with a lower lens heat of approximately 100 F, or less than 40 C, LEDs offer greater flexibility in lighting design.

"This advance was made possible through close collaboration between Federal-Mogul's experts in electronics, solid state light sources, switching technology, micro-controllers and optical design," said Linda Rivers Bell, global director Engineering and R&D Technology, Lighting Products, Federal-Mogul Vehicle Safety and Protection. "Their combined expertise has resulted in a product that produces homogeneous, directed light that does not distract the driver. Our expertise in a broad range of enabling technologies allows us to develop elegant solutions that support the industry's drive to create products that consume less energy, are more durable and are easier to use," Bell added.

The application of this technology was developed at Federal-Mogul's technical center in Ann Arbor, Mich., which is one of the company's 18 globally-networked technical centers. The company is currently working with vehicle manufacturers and vehicle interior integrators on several vehicle applications. Further applications for the technology could include lamps for door pockets or other storage areas that activate when a hand enters the space.

Federal-Mogul's touch-free lighting is the first of several planned lighting technology introductions from the company that will offer cleaner designs, higher reliability and more intuitive ways for users to operate and personalize their vehicles' interiors.