John Bullough is senior research scientist and adjunct faculty member at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lighting Research Center. LRC research in automotive lighting has been sponsored by NHTSA, IIHS, Chrysler, Ford, GE, GM, Koito, Visteon, Audi, AL, Hella, Osram-Sylvania, Philips, and Varroc—the latter six of whom are members of the LRC’s TLA (Transportation Lighting Alliance).
Bullough talked with us about the research behind his award-winning VISION presentation.
DVN: The VISION attendees selected your lecture as the best of the congress. This lecture explained the correlation between the benefits of increased lighting performance with nighttime crash reductions. Could you develop the results of your study?
John Bullough: It is difficult to identify statistically reliable estimates of increased safety from improved vehicle lighting. However, there are abundant data describing longer visibility distances and shorter response times from better lighting. My paper described a way to harmonise all of these data using a metric of visibility called relative visual performance, or RVP, which can be determined from light levels, contrast and size of objects to be seen. More importantly RVP improvements from lighting were shown to be strongly correlated to statistical nighttime crash reductions at roadway intersections. This means we have a reasonable metric for predicting the safety benefits of new types of lighting, including improved vehicle forward lighting like matrix systems and supplemental high-intensity driving beam patterns.
DVN: Historically there hasn’t been much of a culture of innovation in automotive lighting in America. This is changing and now we are seeing American cars equipped with innovative headlamps. How do you explain this evolution?
John Bullough: To be fair, a number of US companies as well as NHTSA have supported LRC’s research in vehicle lighting. In 2008 NHTSA tasked us with developing and evaluating an early ADB prototype that, conceptually at least, has the same functionality as modern ADB systems. In the US, research from organisations like IIHS show economic benefits from advanced systems like HID and adaptive headlights. This accumulating evidence, coupled with technological advancement, demands—and is producing—new and better headlights in the US.