UK trials of autonomous pods & lighting needs

Tuesday 21st January 2020 marks the start of the first UK public trails of autonomous pods, with trials on open public roads planned later this year. The vehicles are being trialled in Bristol by infrastructure firm AECOM, which is working with partners including the Bristol Robotics Laboratory to develop autonomous vehicles. The project, called CAPRI, is made up of 17 businesses and academic institutions including the University of the West of England, Bristol University and Heathrow Airport. It’s hoped the pods could be used in cities across the UK to move people to venues, hailed by the public using an app.

This latest development marks a continued development towards automation and again raises the question; how will the need for lighting change when autonomous machines, which do not require light to operate, become more commonplace?

“Here one can either predict a death sentence for heavy vehicle lighting or choose to view it as an opportunity and adapt the development of lighting. Even if autonomous heavy vehicles will impact the industry as seems to be the case today, I think that the development pertaining to autonomous vehicles can encourage the discovery of new ways of working with lighting,” says Christian Wadell, Head of Research and Development at TYRI.

“Instead of illuminating an area for operators, we can use the lighting to provide safety and security in the surrounding area. Warning lights can communicate to people in the area which ‘mode’ the vehicle is operating in – and this will be particularly important when it comes to electric vehicles which can barely be heard. In this, different light colours can communicate the machine’s operation. I believe that light communication like this will usher in a new era for the industry and we must make sure we keep up.”

When the purpose of lighting is not solely to increase visibility but also to convey various messages and warning signals, behavioural science will become a new aspect in lighting development. The meanings of different lights and colours must be just as clear as the way the observer interprets the message. TYRI’s organisation is constantly evolving and bringing in experts from diverse disciplines in order to address the lighting needs of tomorrow. Despite the growing number of autonomous vehicles, Christian thinks it is unlikely that all types of vehicles and machines will undergo this development.

“That’s why we will focus heavily on both the further development of existing lighting products and on work involving future lighting communication.”