Skoda has revealed that it is working on a car grille that can display messages to pedestrians.
In a move that is surprisingly not a late April fool’s joke, the Czech brand has developed an illuminated and animated grille for its Enyaq iV electric SUV for “vehicle to pedestrian communication” as part of an urban mobility project.
The system replaces the Enyaq iV’s backlit Crystal Face grille with a new body featuring programmable LED lighting strips. Each strip of lights can be controlled separately, making it possible to create unique animations.
When the car approaches a pedestrian crossing, it can alert anyone waiting to cross in advance that it has spotted them. It then stops and displays a sign - green arrows or a green figure, for example, to let them know it’s safe to cross. Once they have crossed, and the car is about to set off, it can display a different signal to warn pedestrians that the car is moving.
In more extreme examples, a car that is unable to stop can send out a clear signal warning pedestrians not to cross. The symbols currently being tested include green arrows and a green person, plus a warning triangle or a red triangle with a cross, which Skoda says are widely recognised around the world.
Skoda believes that such a system could help reduce pedestrian casualties by making a driver’s intentions clearer, and the innovation comes after updates to the Highway Code last year changed who has priority at pedestrian crossings and junctions.
The system is being tested by the Czech Technical University in Prague as part of a wider project exploring how to improve road safety for children, the elderly and people with disabilities. This also includes a robotic crossing assistant called IPA2X. The robot, which is over two metres tall and features traffic-monitoring cameras and a display screen, can detect when it is clear to cross and make its way to the middle of the crossing before displaying a green light to let pedestrians and a stop sign to approaching vehicles. It can also communicate with a car’s on-board infotainment display to send an alert directly to the display.
Skoda is continuing to test the two technologies in Italy and the Czech Republic, and will do so into 2024, with the hopes they might be rolled out “as early as 2025”.