Can You See Me Now?

Barry Snyder, Axalta Chief Technology Officer, Explains How Coatings Will Enable an Autonomous Future


On March 14, Barry Snyder, Axalta’s Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, addressed more than 300 autonomous vehicle professionals at the Autonomous Car Detroit conference. The conference was designed to facilitate idea sharing and discussion around technologies and trends that are shaping the evolution of the autonomous car.

Snyder’s discussion focused on how coatings are a vital enabler to the future of autonomous vehicles and how Axalta is working on innovative solutions that will comply with autonomous vehicle requirements.  “Reflectivity and transmissivity are key pieces to the puzzle we need to solve, and we have technology available to address some of these issues,” he said during the standing-room-only
presentation.

Snyder explained that for vehicles to “see” each other on the road safely, car paint needs to be reflective. Today, autonomous vehicle light-mapping systems called LiDAR systems can more easily detect light-colored vehicles due to their reflectivity. Axalta’s Automotive Color of the Year 2018 – StarLite is a perfect example of a light-colored coating and it even contains pearlescent flakes that contribute to its reflectivity.

Though reflectivity plays a key role in allowing autonomous vehicles to detect each other, coatings must also be formulated to receive and transmit laser light signals through paint without interference. Sensors will be covered in coatings, so the paint formulation would allow signals to pass through the coating. If this can be achieved, automobile manufacturers will have more flexibility in terms of placement of the sensors, and will have fewer limitations on the design of future vehicles.

Ultimately, vehicle design is still a major factor in car buyers’ decisions, so coatings need to be formulated to achieve the reflectivity and transmissivity required by autonomous vehicles, while also being attractive and durable. In addition, solutions should allow for color variety since consumers seek unique and brilliant colors to match their preference.

“As a coatings player, Axalta is absolutely fully invested in solving these problems. We are already anticipating where these issues are and
working on them,” added Snyder.