In an effort to advance their design reputation, Renault has engaged in a bold design exercise in their Trezor concept car unveiled at the Paris Motor Show. The all-electric, autonomous-driving-capable two-seater is as wildly impractical as any concept car, though some of the styling cues are expected to pop up in their future production lineup.
There is one interesting aspect to the design that no one seems to be discussing, and we'd like to get your feedback on it. Take a look at the video and see what jumps out at you:
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No, we're not talking about the crazy canopy. What interests us is the bit about how the exterior lighting changes when the car is being used in autonomous mode, to signal to other drivers that there is no human at the wheel.
The feature is of interest because currently, the only design element of current cars that are intended to communicate with other drivers are the turn signals. So our first question is, why is Renault proposing the Autonomous lighting scheme? To signal to surrounding drivers that extra care ought be taken as the human driver is otherwise engaged?
The second question is how this design language will be worked out. What pattern of lighting would signify "Autonomous," and how would other drivers understand that that's what it stood for? Would there be an industry-wide standard and some type of awareness campaign to educate the masses?
Bottom line: How useful would you find such a feature?
If autonomous cars become statistically safer than human drivers, which all parties working on such technology believe, then it seems the lighting alert would be unnecessary. However, it has jarred an idea: What I'd like to see on current, non-autonomous cars is an easily-discernible exterior light that illuminates when the driver is texting or otherwise engaged with his phone. Then I would know to steer well clear.