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Ford’s lighting lab mimics the ever-moving Sun

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March 22, 2011

Engineers at the Ford Motor Company use their Visual Performance Evaluation Lab to determi...

Engineers at the Ford Motor Company use their Visual Performance Evaluation Lab to determine what the insides of their vehicles will look like at any time of day
(All photos courtesy Ford Motor Company)

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When designing a vehicle's interior, it's essential to know what different colors, instrument layouts and lighting options will look like at different times of day. Certain shades of black, for instance, can look almost gray in bright sunlight, while instruments that are clearly visible at night may be subject to glare during the day. Since 2006, engineers at the Ford Motor Company have been using something called the Visual Performance Evaluation Lab (VPEL) to determine what the insides of their vehicles will look like at any time of day, under varying amounts of cloud cover.

The VPEL consists of a domed chamber, which the vehicle is parked inside of. One end of a curved metal arm is attached to a center pivot at the top of the dome, while the other end follows the curve of the wall down to the floor, where it can be wheeled around the dome's perimeter. A cluster of four 1,500-watt daylight-temperature spotlights are mounted on the arm, and can be moved up or down its length. By swiveling the arm around the vehicle, and moving the lights up or down, any combination of sun direction and height can be simulated.

An array of floodlights in the ceiling provide additional fill light, to complete the illusion of natural daylight. Altogether, the VPEL's 270 lights use a total of 6,000 watts.

Engineers at the Ford Motor Company use their Visual Performance Evaluation Lab to determi...

Settings can be adjusted to vary the intensity of the light, or to mimic different weather conditions. The artificial lighting of a showroom or of streetlights can likewise be simulated. Of course, the lights can also be completely turned off, to simulate night.

Previously, Ford engineers had to take their vehicles out on the road to make such observations, but it was a time-consuming approach, as early morning light could only be observed in the early morning, dusk lighting only at dusk, and so on. Not only does the VPEL let them create any type of light whenever they want it, but they state that it also allows them to start working on interiors earlier in the production process, before vehicles are roadworthy.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
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2 Comments

Wow, what a waste. Somebody should let Ford know that their vehicles are not aerodynamic. The open wheel wells, lack of belly pan & boat tail make these rectangular vehicles inefficient, lowers top speed, and increases cabin noise. Perhaps if they quit wasting time and energy on this nothing room and seek out the wind tunnel, we can finally get some efficient vehicles on the roadway.

"Listening to customer wants" is great, but if your customers know zip about aerodynamics, science must lead. The waste of fuel continues to be catastrophic waste, with half our national energy costs vanishing into thin air.

TogetherinParis
22nd March, 2011 @ 05:54 pm PDT

How stupid, yey, they are still making small, unstable, inefficient cars that pollute the atmosphere and now we can see how it looks inside at any time of the day. There' s so much technology to restrict carbon emmissions, but no, what they really care is sell a few more by simulating all daylight conditions inside.

Chris7527
23rd March, 2011 @ 06:50 am PDT
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