- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

Sixty percent of auto accidents occur at intersections at night. Safety experts say better nighttime visibility is the key to reducing these crashes. But only so much can be done to increase highway lighting after dark.

Ford designers think they have a better idea on how to improve night-driving safety. They are hard at work on a concept to use translucent panels and imbedded lights to make a car that glows in the dark.

Using technology available today, Ford’s new “GloCar” concept car uses LED lights to change the body panel color, intensity and frequency in response to safety conditions and user preferences. The driver can either choose to stand out or blend in.

The revolutionary concept vehicle, intended to push the boundaries of automotive design, is currently on display as part of “National Design Triennial: Inside Design Now,” a cutting-edge exhibit at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City through Jan. 25.

The customizable GloCar was designed to be safe, fun and evoke emotion. “The soft glowing panels serve as a safety feature to make you very visible at night,” said Laurens van den Acker, chief designer at Ford’s Brand Imaging Group.

“The rear panel doubles as a brake light, and the side panels as blinkers. When somebody comes too close, the panels increase in intensity, signaling the driver to keep a distance. The GloCar allows you to be seen from all angles, not just headlights and taillights,” Mr. van den Acker said.

The GloCar is built around a lightweight aluminum space frame with aluminum extrusions and castings. It is powered by fuel cell technology.

Research determined five scenarios of the future: the unfolding universe, the mosaic society, the experiential society, the sustainable society and the caring society, Mr. van den Acker said. “The intended user is always the end user — the customer.”

Based on the scenarios, designers explored possible trends. Among the most important were safety and sustainability.

The safety benefits might be obvious, but the sustainability of the positive social impact of the GloCar is also important. “The GloCar projects an image of concern, safety, intelligence and lightness and takes the car from an aggressor to a protector,” Mr. van den Acker said. “Imagine hundreds of GloCars, brightening up a city.”

In a city already alight with plenty of its own colorful luminaries, Ford’s GloCar might be just the ticket for those who do their driving inside the Beltway.

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