There’s a lab within Ford that utilizes 6,000 watts of lighting – close to 300 spotlights and floodlights – to simulate various phases of the Earth’s revolution around the sun. Does that leave you wondering what purpose the sun could serve in developing a Ford vehicle? It’s because the interior and exterior of a vehicle can look a lot different at various times of day. Therefore, the goal is to create harmony, and in particular among interior components and lighting, in an effort to minimize things like glare.
“The Visual Performance Evaluation Lab [VPEL] helps us ensure that the craftsmanship in our vehicles is apparent day or night,” explained Christina Bloxom, Ford Interior Harmony Engineer.
The VPEL gives designers and engineers a controlled environment to see just how lighting is affecting the interior from the driver’s perspective. For example, are the controls visible? Do the textures and materials change with light? Are there reflections? Does the black leather look smokier in bright daylight, appearing almost gray? If something isn’t working based on what’s discovered while researching at the VPEL, the designers can opt for a different shade of black or even switch up the texture. The VPEL has proven to be an invaluable part of the process when it comes to designing illuminated car interior components such as switches, clusters, climate controls, navigation systems, radios and rear entertainment systems.
“We scrutinize minute details to see what the customer sees in all levels of light, from the dark of night to the brightest day,” Christina said.
In the old days (aka, pre-VPEL), the lighting team had to take vehicles on the road under different sky conditions and evaluate the components that way. As you might guess, it took a long time. But now, they can do assessments as early as the clay-model stage. And that translates into saving both money and time when it comes to vehicle development.