It’s the age old question isn’t it – and many people believe that red cars go faster – especially Italians! Car colours always seem to be the same small group on the palette and that is probably because dealers and/or manufacturers know that most people buy what is on the forecourt and often don’t seem to care too much about the colour. If you see an unusual colour on a car, it is probably because the owner has had the desire to choose it when ordering the car, which I suspect is rare these days.
However, going back to the question in the title: the answer is apparently “yes”.
Why? Quite simply as more cars are fitted with sensors, radar, LIDAR and other technologies, the colour of the outside skin is likely to be white, silver or another bright colour. This is in complete contrast to the colours mostly seen on roads today.
Bright colours reflect light and heat and that is exactly what the new sensors require. Radar and LIDAR work on bouncing radio and infra-red waves outwards and on receiving the wave back, the systems can then paint a picture of what is around the sensor including size, distance and whether the object is moving.
Black and dark colours absorb a portion of the waves and as such do not bounce as much back which means that less information can be gleaned from the wavelength. This is not good if a car is travelling at any speed because it needs to know as much as possible about its surroundings quickly.
It is not all bad for dark colours though because the paint manufacturers have been busy developing darker hues that can reflect more and absorb less. Apparently PPG, one of the bigger paint producers, has adopted concepts found in nature – some darker skinned vegetables reflect sunlight to protect the inner flesh. PPG figured this out when developing paints to keep aircraft cooler and now they are bringing that knowledge to the automotive industry. In effect they are genetically modifying the paint molecules.
The key apparently was to develop a multi-layer paint with the under layer acting as the reflector and the upper layer allowing the light to pass through to the reflector layer. I’ve said many times, the automotive and aerospace industries are siblings and it is common for the aerospace technology to migrate to land based vehicles.