Tesla designs new sunroof with electrical tint and integrated lighting system

Tesla has designed a new sunroof with electrical tinting and an integrated lighting system, according to a new patent application.

Electric tinting or ‘smart tinting’, which enables a transparent glass to become tinted with an electrical current, has been around for a while now and some automakers have used it in their sunroofs.

It is built with an electronically controllable transparent tinting film between two transparent sheets of glass.

Tesla wants to bring the concept to a new level by also adding a “transparent lighting layer” with LEDs inside, according to a new patent application.

The goal is to completely control the level of light in a vehicle during the day with the electrical tinting system and then also control interior lighting during nighttime – all through the sunroof.

Here’s how Tesla describes the system in the patent application:

“The window according to the present disclosure introduces an advanced sunroof lighting system to allow a desirable amount of ambient light during daytime while also providing a desirable amount of light during nighttime or other obscured light times. The advanced sunroof lighting system consists of multiple layers. In an embodiment, a first transparent layer and a second transparent layer substantially sandwich a tint layer. This tint layer is electrically controllable to allow none, some, or all (neglecting any scattering that occurs by the tint layer itself) of the natural sunlight that is incident on the sunroof to pass through the tint layer. The advanced sunroof lighting system may also have a transparent lighting layer between the first and second transparent layers, such as between the tint layer and the second transparent layer. This transparent lighting layer has a plurality of light sources that are preferentially light emitting diodes (LEDs) attached to a control mechanism, such as a variable power source or a variable resister, that allows for the tuning of the LED intensity and/or color. Because the light in the transparent lighting layer is from the sides, the layer has a plurality of scattering centers, which serve to redirect the light from the light sources on the side of the layer towards the vehicle cabin and the occupants within.”

Here are a few drawings from Tesla’s new patent application:

Tesla describes how owners could use the feature in their vehicles:

“In embodiments, the advanced sunroof lighting system has an electrical controller to control whether the tint layer is tinted and that can also control the brightness and/or color of the lights. The driver or other occupants may interface with the electrical controller through a user interface shown on the dashboard, a computer screen attached to the vehicle, or a remote application (such as an app running on a mobile device). When selected by the user (or according to certain rules automatically set up or set up by the user), the controller changes the level of tinting. For example, during a morning commute, the user may select (or a program set up) for the controller to lighten the tint layer to selectively allow a portion of light through to the vehicle cabin. The user can also control the transparent lighting layer through the controller to have the layer emit light from the plurality of light sources to illuminate the interior cabin to a desired lighting level or a desired color level.”

Joong Min Yoon is the only Tesla engineer listed as an inventor on the patent application. Yoon has 20 years of experience working in research and development on new display panels.

He was working on Apple’s latest displays before joining Tesla in 2016. He filed the patent application for this new sunroof lighting system for Tesla in June 2017 and he was made public earlier this month.

Note that sometimes companies apply for patents on technologies that they never end up using in consumer products.

Here’s the specification sheet for Tesla’s new patent application:

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