When it’s dark outside, your car needs to be lit: you need to be able to see the instrument panel and other controls, for example. While all cars have this practical lighting, premium brands often include “ambient” lighting. These low-level lights, placed in the door handles, foot wells, consoles and other areas, give the car a rich, expensive feel.
Audi is now experimenting with a new idea: illuminated floor mats. Using LED technology, the mats contain logos that light up.
“This is a prototype,” says Jonathan Lee, senior engineer at Audi’s electronics research lab in Palo Alto, California. “We’re still looking at whether there’s an interest from the customer, and how we make it so it’s simple to install and remove.”
Since floor mats are intended to take the brunt of wet or snowy weather, a major challenge is in making the package watertight.
“We can cast the whole thing in multiple pieces,” Lee says. “There would be a top layer with the graphic display with the car’s logo. Then there’s the diffuser layer, and then the LED layer.
All three can be encapsulated to make it into one module that could either snap into a floor mat as a retrofit, or be molded into the floor mat itself. It can be molded into a utility mat that you’d be able to hose down with the LEDs inside.”
The mats would most likely include an electrical harness that would be powered by the car’s 12-volt plug, Lee says, which wouldn’t run down the battery.