How high-tech paint and coatings enable autonomous driving

PPG has a long history of providing paint products for both car manufacturers and repairers. But as the automotive industry is undergoing significant changes, with autonomous vehicles and an ever increasing numbers of sensors and cameras surveilling the road and traffic around the car, this poses a whole new challenge: How do you use the paint on the car work to improve safety and driving experience?

PPG focuses on the Autonomous future of cars

Light absorption and sensor detection

Coatings will be crucial to the variety of sensors that will allow vehicles to communicate with each other, to see each other, and to detect obstacles and where the road is. In a test, a black car reflected back just six percent of the near infrared signal that a white car did, making it dramatically less “visible” on the road. How is PPG working to address concerns around this? We have designed coatings that will have enhanced dark color vehicle detection that allow the light to penetrate down toward a reflective under-layer. The signal “bounces off” this layer and returns to the sensor instead of getting absorbed. This coating leverages commercially-proven technology from PPG’s aerospace business that functions in the same light- and heat-reflective way. PPG could utilize these paints not only for cars, but also for infrastructure, so that standing structures like bridges can be clearly identified and precisely measured by a car’s sensors.

While PPG already has one coating technology that lets its users better manage the reflectivity of specific wavelengths, within two years, PPG expects to market improved coatings that will absorb less infrared light and still provide excellent color and appearance. PPG will also produce improved coatings that enhance the radar reflectivity and transmission properties of plastic and composite substrates.

Easy-clean composite coatings

PPG experts are overcoming initial concerns around sensors being covered with ice or mud by creating an easy-to-clean technology for coatings that allow dirt and water to quickly and easily wash away, so there are no obstructions for sensors.

Radio frequency

Another area where coatings will prove important in mobility is in minimizing radio frequency leakage. That’s where electromagnetic signals drift and bleed into one another, creating cross talk that can degrade how well equipment works. Technology from PPG’s aerospace business will ensure that signals don’t get mixed up and impair one another’s performance.

PPG is working on many different solutions for autonomous cars