The ability of autonomous vehicles to sense their surroundings is critical to their ability to operate in a dynamic environment. According to numerous experts, of the various sensing technologies used by autonomous vehicles, LiDAR will be key to achieving these safety goals. One of the difficulties for LiDAR for other-vehicle detection is dark colors. The typical black pigment in use in car paint, absorbs nearly all of the LiDAR signal, reflecting very little back to be detected. To overcome this challenge, PPG has developed a proprietary engineered coating stack that enables the full palette of automotive colors from light to dark colored shades, to jet black, but which also achieves a high level of reflectance at LiDAR wavelengths. This engineered stack relies on using near-infrared (NIR) transparent pigments which maintain the current automotive color palette, but do not absorb the NIR light from the LiDAR sensors. A lower layer of PPG’s coating stack effectively reflects the LiDAR signal without absorption. Proof of concept and static testing at universities and other testing facilities have demonstrated the benefit of PPG’s coating stack for improving the detectability of coated objects and vehicles in different conditions. Dynamic, on-road testing is being planned to quantify the safety improvements of PPG’s motif.
We will present briefly the coating stack design and why it is differentiated from other approaches to enable use in automotive finishing. We will also present the most recent development and testing results for color and LiDAR reflectivity and detection performance.
Eldon Decker received his M.S. in Physics from Brigham Young University, doing research on fullerene materials, and his Ph.D. in Physics from Carnegie Mellon University studying interfacial wetting phenomena. He completed a post doc at the University of Pittsburgh researching pattern formation in fluid flow. Eldon has been at PPG for 19 years, working in pigment dispersion and color technology innovation. He helped invent and develop PPG’s: Andaro® coatings with nano-sized pigments, crystalline colloidal array technology, and solar heat management coatings. He has been granted 20 US patents. A current area of interest for him includes coatings technologies that help to improve the function, safety, and passenger experience for autonomous vehicles.