Technology company Continental is unveiling two prototypes for a heated and actively illuminated safety jacket for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas next week.
“Smart wearables such as these will revolutionise the way we use technology in everyday situations and improve safety on the road,” said Tobias Huber, who is responsible at Continental for developing smart, functional materials. The two applications are inductively charged via a coil incorporated in the driver’s seat.
“This concept opens up huge opportunities for the future,” said Huber. Because the interaction with the vehicle electronics can be expanded further. In the future, for instance, sensors in the clothing could determine data such as humidity and temperature and, based on this, actuate the automatic climate control system via the vehicle electronics.
Eye-catching LED lights for safety
Ensuring good visibility at all times is vital for courier companies, emergency services and utility services staff and for truck drivers when loading and unloading is a significant safety factor, because they are more visible to other road users in potentially hazardous situations and in poor weather conditions. The warning jacket with LED lights and an optional heating function protects its wearer against accidents and is activated automatically on leaving the vehicle. The energy-saving LED lights incorporated in addition to the conventional reflectors ensure good visibility in the dark – even when the jacket is not being lit up by an external light source. Furthermore, the light function is automatically activated as soon as the driver leaves the charging station – i.e. the seat.
A coil incorporated in the driver’s seat inductively charges the batteries for the LEDs and the integral heating system. This means the jacket is always adequately charged. A flexible second coil in the jacket absorbs the power from the seat coil. Various material layers safeguard the garment’s washability and limit radiation of the magnetic field to the driver. A battery powers the LEDs via wires incorporated in the fabric. The battery plus the control electronics can be housed where it is out of the way, for example in the breast pocket.
“The heating function is also about far more than just improving comfort,” added Huber. “In delivery vehicles, which are increasingly electrically powered, the jacket heating system means the energy consumption for heating the cab can be reduced by up to 90 percent. That adds up to an extended range since the driver is heated rather than the cab.“
In the future, electrically conductive materials are to be used to generate the desired warmth in the jacket without having to install a single millimetre of heating filament. This is thanks to a conductive, coatable polymer compound that is incorporated in the material by means of a printing process. If electricity flows through the material, it is directly converted to heat. “Consequently, the surface is fully warmed within seconds at the cost of a relatively low power input,” explains Dr. Erhard Barho, who is responsible at Continental for the development of functional surfaces.