Key fobs have all but eliminated the difficulties in finding the key hole on a car door at night, but what if finding your actual car is the problem? If you parked somewhere dark and sketchy, BMW's new 7 Series will make it easier to find your vehicle with a glowing pathway that leads right to its doors.
The company's Welcome Light Carpet seems like it would be an easy feature to implement, right? Just stick some LEDs under the car and turn them on at the push of a button. But the underside of a car is under constant bombardment from dirt and debris while it's being driven that will quickly destroy any sensitive electronics.
To solve this problem, BMW worked with researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering to develop a special lighting system that stays safely tucked up under the sill of the car's body under the driver and passenger doors. Using 150 microprojectors arranged in a honeycomb array, the beams of light are able to 'bend' out from under the vehicle using specially-developed microoptic lenses and project a path that covers about 43 square feet on either side of the sedan.
The lighting system is protected from projectiles kicked up by the vehicle's front tires, but smaller particles like dust and dirt might still find their way in. Fraunhofer's researchers aren't worried about it, though, because the microprojector array they designed means that while some of the beams might get dirty and blocked resulting in some dimming of the Welcome Light Carpet, there's no chance all of them will be obscured at the same time.