How Ford's light lab keeps the sun shining on the new Mustang just right [w/video]

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Anyone who's bought one of those old school metal shift knobs knows they're really cool until they sit in a parking lot in the sun for a few hours. Then they're not cool at all. Likewise, features such as the aluminum dash on the 2015 Ford Mustang can be all kinds of neat right up until the sun hits it just the right way and sends shards of blinding light through the cabin. The Ford Visual Performance and Evaluation Lab is where engineers figure out how to make sure that doesn't happen.

Cars like said Mustang are parked inside the 30-foot reflecting dome under 6,000 watts of lights that can mimic the sun at any time of day and in any weather condition. Engineers can then spend cold, overcast days inside, testing for interior legibility, glare and reflections on every interior and exterior surface as if it were bright and sunny. They can also learn how a car's sheetmetal and colors will look out of doors, all year round.

Ford showed off the lighting lab without the music and interviews three years ago when the Explorer was being prepared. You can read about it in the press release below that. {C}

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It's Always Bright Inside Ford Motor Company, Even in the Dead of Winter

- Minimal sunlight from short Midwest winter days and finicky weather limits the amount of time Ford engineers can test outdoor conditions on vehicle interiors to ensure a good ownership experience
- With 6,000 watts of light, Ford Lighting Lab allows engineers to reduce sun glare on vehicle instrument panels; lab used for new 2015 Ford Mustang to create highly legible gauges and new, glare-free aluminum dash panel
- Ford engineers can re-create any lighting condition in the world, critical to the development of global products such as the 2014 Ford Fiesta

Dec 23, 2013 | Dearborn, Mich. - Through the deepest days of winter, Ford Motor Company remains focused on seeing the light.

With Ford's Visual Performance Evaluation Lab – known internally as the Lighting Lab – engineers re-create daylight to work to reduce sun glare on vehicle controls and instrument panels.

The high-performance Lighting Lab uses a planetarium-like dome to replicate sunlight conditions from dawn to dusk, simulating the phases of the earth's revolution around the sun. Additional lights lining the perimeter of the dome can be adjusted to simulate the effects of weather conditions.

The designers behind the 2015 Ford Mustang used the Lighting Lab to ensure the car's newly available aluminum dash panel does not cause glare to drivers under a variety of conditions, and that the instruments found in Mustang's optional gauge pack are always legible.

"With the Lighting Lab, we can ensure that the first time a buyer sits in the 2015 Ford Mustang, that person will be able to see the interior as the designers originally envisioned it – in the best light possible," said Mahendra Dassanayake, Ford lighting technical specialist. "Whether the car is parked outside or is sitting on an auto show floor, whether it is a bright, sunny day, or overcast and snowing, the materials and controls in the Mustang will be both visually satisfying and highly functional."

To conduct an evaluation of switches, clusters, climate controls, navigation systems, radios or entertainment systems, the car or the individual component is first placed in the middle of a large circular space. A switch is then flipped to power on four 1,500-watt lights mounted on a moveable steel arm.

By physically pushing the arm to specific points around the circle's edge, and adjusting the spotlights and floodlights in the ceiling, the Lighting Lab can simulate light conditions at every time of day, while the additional lighting in the dome is used to vary weather conditions from bright sun to full cloud cover.

These tools allow Ford engineers to re-create any kind of lighting condition found anywhere in the world when designing new vehicles, which is critical to the development of global products such as the 2014 Ford Fiesta.

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