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Title:
SENSOR ACTIVATED STORAGE COMPARTMENT LIGHTING
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/071891
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A storage compartment (20,26) is provided that includes a sensor (22,30) configured to generate a signal based on presence of an activating object within the storage compartment. The storage compartment (20,26) also includes a lighting assembly (28,44,46) communicatively coupled to the sensor (22,30) and configured to reduce a lighting intensity based on the signal. The storage compartment may be a cup holder (20) or may be configured to store maps, gloves, sunglasses or similar items.

Inventors:
FRENS, Jonathan M. (4365 Heritage Dr, Hudsonville, Michigan, 49426, US)
Application Number:
US2010/059245
Publication Date:
June 16, 2011
Filing Date:
December 07, 2010
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
JOHNSON CONTROLS TECHNOLOGY COMPANY (915 East 32nd Street, Holland, Michigan, 49423, US)
FRENS, Jonathan M. (4365 Heritage Dr, Hudsonville, Michigan, 49426, US)
International Classes:
B60Q3/02; A47G23/02; B60Q3/00
Foreign References:
US20080219017A12008-09-11
US20050161558A12005-07-28
US20080087797A12008-04-17
EP1550579A12005-07-06
US20070247836A12007-10-25
US20080266853A12008-10-30
US7354181B22008-04-08
US61267665A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
YODER, Patrick S. et al. (P.O. Box 692289, Houston, Texas, 77269, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1. A storage compartment, comprising:

a sensor configured to generate a signal based on presence of an activating object within the storage compartment;

a controller communicatively coupled to the sensor and configured to detect the activating object within the storage compartment based on the signal; and

a lighting assembly communicatively coupled to the controller and configured to reduce a lighting intensity when the controller detects the activating object within the storage compartment.

2. The storage compartment of claim 1, wherein the sensor comprises a capacitance sensor, a field effect sensor, an ultrasonic transducer, a radio frequency transducer, an optical transducer, an electromechanical switch, or a combination thereof.

3. The storage compartment of claim 1, wherein the lighting assembly comprises:

a light source; and

a dimmer circuit electrically coupled to the light source, and configured to reduce the lighting intensity of the light source.

4. The storage compartment of claim 1, wherein the lighting assembly comprises:

a light source; and

a light guide optically coupled to the light source and disposed about a perimeter of the storage compartment.

5. The storage compartment of claim 1, comprising a second sensor configured to generate a second signal based on presence of a second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment, wherein the second sensor is communicatively coupled to the controller, the controller is configured to detect the second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment based on the second signal, and the lighting assembly is configured to increase the lighting intensity when the controller detects the second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment.

6. The storage compartment of claim 5, wherein the second sensor comprises a capacitance sensor, a field effect sensor, an ultrasonic transducer, a radio frequency transducer, an optical transducer, or a combination thereof.

7. The storage compartment of claim 5, wherein the second activating object comprises a hand, an item within the hand, or a combination thereof.

8. The storage compartment of claim 5, wherein the second sensor is configured to detect perturbations to a field at a range sufficient for the controller to detect the second activating object without contact between the second activating object and the storage compartment.

9. A method, comprising:

detecting presence of an activating object within a storage compartment; and reducing a lighting intensity upon detection of the activating object.

10. The method of claim 9, wherein detecting presence of the activating object comprises detecting interruption of a beam across an open portion of the storage compartment.

11. The method of claim 9, wherein detecting presence of the activating object comprises detecting perturbations to a field within an open portion of the storage compartment.

12. The method of claim 9, wherein reducing the lighting intensity comprises gradually reducing the lighting intensity over time.

13. The method of claim 9, comprising: detecting a second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment; and increasing the lighting intensity upon detection of the second activating object.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein detecting the second activating object comprises detecting perturbations to a field at a range sufficient to detect the second activating object without contact between the second activating object and the storage compartment.

15. A storage compartment, comprising:

a recess configured to receive a beverage container;

a sensor configured to generate a signal based on presence of an activating object within the recess;

a controller communicatively coupled to the sensor and configured to detect the activating object within the recess based on the signal; and

a lighting assembly communicatively coupled to the controller and configured to reduce a lighting intensity when the controller detects the activating object within the recess.

16. The storage compartment of claim 15, wherein the sensor comprises: an optical emitter configured to transmit a beam across a diameter of the recess; and

an optical detector configured to generate the signal if the activating object blocks the beam.

17. The storage compartment of claim 15, wherein the sensor comprises a capacitance sensor, a field effect sensor, an ultrasonic transducer, a radio frequency transducer, an optical transducer, an electromechanical switch, or a combination thereof.

18. The storage compartment of claim 15, comprising a second sensor configured to generate a second signal based on presence of a second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment, wherein the second sensor is communicatively coupled to the controller, the controller is configured to detect the second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment based on the second signal, and the lighting assembly is configured to increase the lighting intensity when the controller detects the second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment.

19. The storage compartment of claim 15, wherein the lighting assembly comprises:

a light emitting diode (LED); and

a light guide optically coupled to the LED and disposed about a perimeter of the recess.

20. The storage compartment of claim 15, wherein the lighting assembly comprises:

a light source; and

a dimmer circuit electrically coupled to the light source, and configured to gradually reduce the lighting intensity of the light source over time.

Description:
SENSOR ACTIVATED STORAGE COMPARTMENT

LIGHTING

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority from and the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 61/267,665, entitled "SENSOR ACTIVATED STORAGE COMPARTMENT LIGHTING", filed December 8, 2009, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

[0002] The invention relates generally to sensor activated storage compartment lighting.

[0003] Storage compartments may be positioned throughout an interior of a vehicle to store cargo and other small items. For example, an overhead console may include a storage compartment suitable for storing sunglasses, driving glasses, or other similar items. Other storage compartments may be located within a center console, an armrest, seats, door panels, or other areas of the vehicle interior. Certain storage compartments, e.g., cup holders, may be particularly configured to secure beverage containers. These cup holders may be positioned within easy reach of vehicle occupants, and shaped to accommodate various beverage container sizes.

[0004] Certain storage compartments include ambient lighting to increase the visibility of the compartments in dark conditions (e.g., driving at night). For example, cup holders may include a lit ring extending about the circumference of the cup holder to enhance the visibility of the cup holder in dark conditions. Similarly, a storage compartment may include one or more light sources configured to illuminate the interior of the compartment. Unfortunately, light from such ambient lighting systems may be reflected off items within the storage compartment, thereby distracting the vehicle operator. For example, if a reflective (e.g., metallic) beverage container is placed within a cup holder having a lit ring, light from the lit ring may reflect off the beverage container and distract the operator. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0005] The present invention relates to a storage compartment including a sensor configured to generate a signal based on presence of an activating object within the storage compartment. The storage compartment also includes a controller communicatively coupled to the sensor and configured to detect the activating object within the storage compartment based on the signal. The storage compartment further includes a lighting assembly communicatively coupled to the controller and configured to reduce a lighting intensity when the controller detects the activating object within the storage compartment.

[0006] The present invention also relates to a method including detecting presence of an activating object within a storage compartment, and reducing a lighting intensity upon detection of the activating object.

[0007] The present invention further relates to a storage compartment including a recess configured to receive a beverage container. The storage compartment also includes a sensor configured to generate a signal based on presence of an activating object within the recess, and a controller communicatively coupled to the sensor and configured to detect the activating object within the recess based on the signal. The storage compartment further includes a lighting assembly communicatively coupled to the controller and configured to reduce a lighting intensity when the controller detects the activating object within the recess.

DRAWINGS

[0008] FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of an exemplary vehicle that may include one or more storage compartments with sensor activated lighting.

[0009] FIGURE 2 is a perspective view of a part of the interior of the vehicle of FIGURE 1. [0010] FIGURE 3 is a cross-sectional view of a cup holder, as shown in FIGURE 2, having sensor activated lighting in an illuminated state prior to insertion of a beverage container.

[0011] FIGURE 4 is a cross-sectional view of the cup holder, as shown in FIGURE 3, having sensor activated lighting in a darkened state after insertion of the beverage container.

[0012] FIGURE 5 is a cross-sectional view of the cup holder, as shown in FIGURE 3, having sensor activated lighting in an illuminated state due to the presence of an activating object adjacent to the cup holder.

[0013] FIGURE 6 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of a method for reducing luminous intensity of a storage compartment based on the presence of an activating object.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0014] FIGURE 1 is a perspective view of a motor vehicle 10 including one or more storage compartments with sensor activated lighting in accordance with aspects of the present technique. As illustrated, the vehicle 10 includes an interior 12 having a seat 14, an armrest 16 and a center console 18. As discussed in detail below, the seat 14, armrest 16, center console 18 and/or other areas within the interior 12 may include storage compartments with ambient lighting systems configured to selectively illuminate or darken based on detection of an activating object within the compartment. For example, the armrest 16 may include an open storage compartment having a light source configured to illuminate the interior of the compartment during dark conditions (e.g., driving at night). The storage compartment may also include a sensor configured to detect the presence of an activating object (e.g., keys, sunglasses, coins, food/beverage containers, etc.) within the storage compartment. If the object is detected, a controller within the storage compartment may instruct the light source to decrease luminous intensity or completely darken. In this manner, light reflected from the object within the storage compartment may be significantly reduced or eliminated, thereby reducing driver distraction. Furthermore, once the sensor has detected that the object has been removed from the storage compartment, the controller may instruct the light source to return to the initial illuminated state, thereby facilitating identification of the storage compartment in low light situations.

[0015] In certain embodiments, the storage compartment may include a second sensor configured to identify the presence of a second activating object (e.g., occupant hand) adjacent to the storage compartment. The controller may be configured to instruct the light source to increase luminous intensity upon detection of the second activating object even if the first activating object is present within the storage compartment. For example, certain cup holders may include a lit ring extending about the circumference of the cup holder to increase the visibility of the cup holder. When a beverage container is disposed within the cup holder, the controller may detect the presence of the beverage container and decrease the light emitted by the lit ring. As previously discussed, reducing luminous intensity will decrease light reflected by the beverage container, thereby diminishing driver distraction. However, as the occupant hand approaches the cup holder, the second sensor may detect the presence of the hand, and the controller may instruct the light source to increase intensity. Such a configuration may increase cup holder visibility as the occupant reaches toward the beverage container. In certain embodiments, the intensity of the light emitted after detection of the second activating object may be greater than the darkened state, but less than the fully illuminated state.

[0016] FIGURE 2 is a perspective view of a part of the interior 12 of the vehicle 10 of FIGURE 1. As illustrated, the vehicle interior 12 includes the center console 18 having cup holders 20 and sensors 22. As previously discussed, each cup holder 20 may include a sensor activated lighting system configured to selectively illuminate or darken based on the presence of an activating object within the cup holder 20. Specifically, when no beverage container is present within the cup holder 20, an ambient light source within the cup holder will illuminate to enhance the visibility of the cup holder 20 in low light conditions (e.g., driving at night). However, when a sensor detects the presence of a beverage container within the cup holder 20, the luminous intensity of the ambient light source will decrease (or the source may be turned off entirely), thereby reducing the intensity of light reflected from the beverage container. In addition, the sensor 22 may be configured to detect the presence of a second activating object (e.g., an occupant hand) adjacent to the cup holder. Consequently, when the sensor 22 detects the presence of an occupant hand reaching toward the cup holder 20, the luminous intensity of the ambient light source may increase despite the presence of the beverage container within the cup holder 20. In this manner, the visibility of the cup holder 20 may be increased when an occupant intends to extract an object from the cup holder 20. In the present configuration, each cup holder 20 includes a separate sensor 22 configured to detect the presence of an occupant hand adjacent to the cup holder 20. However, alternative embodiments may employ a single sensor 22 for controlling the lighting intensity of both cup holders 20. Furthermore, while the sensors 22 are visible in the present embodiment, it should be appreciated that alternative embodiments may include sensors 22 disposed below a surface of the center console 18, such that the sensors 22 are not visible by occupants within the vehicle 10.

[0017] The vehicle interior 12 also includes an interior door panel 24 having a storage compartment 26 configured to store maps, gloves, sunglasses, or similar items. Similar to the cup holders 20, the storage compartment 26 includes an ambient light source 28 configured to illuminate the interior of the compartment 26. Such a configuration may enhance the visibility of the compartment 26 in low light conditions, such as driving at night. However, a reflective item (e.g., driving glasses, white paper, etc.) within the storage compartment 26 may reflect light from the light source 28 and distract a vehicle operator. Consequently, the present storage compartment 26 employs a sensor activated lighting system configured to darken the ambient light source 28 when an object is detected within the storage compartment 26. Specifically, the storage compartment 26 includes a first sensor 30 configured to detect an object within the storage compartment. Upon detection, a controller within the storage compartment 26 will reduce the luminous intensity or completely darken the light source 28 to reduce driver distraction from reflected light. Furthermore, the storage compartment 26 includes a second sensor 32 configured to detect the presence of a second object (e.g., occupant hand) approaching the storage compartment 26. Upon detection, the luminous intensity of the ambient light source 28 may increase despite the presence of the first object within the storage compartment 26. In this manner, the visibility of the storage compartment 26 may be increased when an occupant intends to extract an object from the compartment 26. Additional storage compartments and/or cup holders employing similar sensor activated lighting systems may be positioned throughout the vehicle interior 12, such as within an overhead console 34.

[0018] FIGURE 3 is a cross-sectional view of the cup holder 20, as shown in FIGURE 2, having sensor activated lighting in an illuminated state prior to insertion of a beverage container. As previously discussed, a sensor within the cup holder is configured to detect the presence of an activating object (e.g., beverage container) within the cup holder 20. In the present configuration, the sensor includes an infrared (IR) emitter 36 and an IR detector 38. As illustrated, the emitter 36 transmits a beam B across the diameter of the cup holder 20 toward the detector 38. In the present configuration, both the emitter 36 and detector 38 are positioned adjacent to a top portion of the cup holder 20 to detect an object crossing the beam B. While the present embodiment utilizes an IR emitter 36 and IR detector 38, it should be appreciated that alternative embodiments may utilize emitters and detectors configured to operate at other frequencies (e.g., visible wavelengths, ultraviolet (UV), radio frequency (RF), etc.). In further embodiments, the sensor may be a single unit configured to emit a field and detect perturbations to the field, thereby detecting the object within the cup holder 20. Such a sensor may be positioned at various locations within or adjacent to the cup holder 20 based on the sensor range and/or desired object position for darkening the lighting system.

[0019] In the present configuration, the emitter 36 and detector 38 are communicatively coupled to a controller 40. As will be appreciated, the controller 40 is configured to provide an electrical input, such as a continuous direct current (DC) signal, to the emitter 36. Similarly, the detector 38 is configured to transmit a signal to the controller 40 indicative of the presence of an activating object (e.g., beverage container) within the cup holder 20. In turn, the controller 40 is configured to detect the presence of the activating object within the cup holder 20 based on the signal. Furthermore, as discussed in detail below, the controller 40 is configured to reduce the luminous intensity of a light source based on detection of the activating object.

[0020] As will be appreciated, in addition to the illustrated IR emitter 36 and detector 38, various single-unit field emitting and detecting sensors may be employed to detect activating objects within the cup holder 20. For example, certain embodiments may employ a capacitance sensor which emits a field to detect changes in the dielectric constant caused by any objects falling within the effective range of the field, such as due to the presence of a beverage container within the cup holder 20. Specifically, the controller 40 may provide the sensor with a direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC) electrical signal. The sensor is configured to convert this electrical signal into a field that emanates within or adjacent to the cup holder 20. The sensor may then generate an output signal representative of the detected field. This signal may be received and analyzed by the controller 40 to determine whether an object is within the cup holder 20. Alternative embodiments may employ a field effect type capacitance sensor which includes multiple plates to more accurately focus the field. Field effect sensors may provide greater precision, but lower range compared to traditional capacitance sensors.

[0021] Further embodiments may employ an ultrasonic transducer configured to emit and detect high frequency sound waves. Specifically, the controller 40 may provide the sensor with a high frequency AC electrical pulse. The sensor is configured to convert this electrical pulse into an acoustical field that emanates within or adjacent to the cup holder 20. For example, certain ultrasonic transducers utilize a piezoelectric ceramic disk to convert the high frequency AC pulse into an acoustical pulse that propagates away from the sensor. If the field (i.e., acoustical pulse) impacts an object, the acoustical energy is reflected back to the sensor. The sensor detects the reflected energy and generates an output signal representative of the detected field (i.e., returned acoustical energy). This signal may be received and analyzed by the controller 40 to determine whether an object is within the cup holder 20.

[0022] Alternative embodiments may employ a radio frequency transducer configured to emit and detect electromagnetic waves. Similar to the ultrasonic transducer, the controller 40 may provide the sensor with a high frequency AC electrical pulse. The sensor is configured to convert this electrical pulse into an electromagnetic field that emanates within or adjacent to the cup holder 20. If the field (i.e., electromagnetic pulse) impacts an object, the energy is reflected back to the sensor. The sensor detects the reflected energy and generates an output signal representative of the detected field (i.e., returned electromagnetic energy). This signal may be received and analyzed by the controller 40 to determine whether an object is within the cup holder 20.

[0023] Further embodiments may employ an optical transducer configured to emit and detect infrared, visible and/or ultraviolet light waves. The controller 40 may provide the sensor with a DC current. The sensor is configured to convert this electrical current into an optical field that emanates from within or adjacent to the cup holder 20. If the field (i.e., light rays) impacts an object, the energy is reflected back to the sensor. The sensor detects the reflected energy and generates an output signal representative of the detected field (i.e., reflected light). This signal may be received and analyzed by the controller 40 to determine whether an object is within the cup holder 20. As will be appreciated, various other sensors (e.g., passive infrared, inductance, etc.) configured to detect the presence of an activating object may be employed in alternative embodiments.

[0024] Yet further embodiments may employ an electromechanical sensor or switch configured to detect the presence of the activating object within the cup holder 20. For example, the electromechanical switch may be positioned at the bottom of the cup holder 20 such that the weight of the activating object engages the switch. Upon contact with the activating object, the electromechanical switch may disengage the light source. As will be appreciated, the controller 40 may be omitted from this configuration such that the switch directly operates the light source. In addition to the IR emitter/detector, capacitance sensor, ultrasonic transducer, radio frequency transducer, optical transducer and electromechanical switch described above, it should be appreciated that alternative embodiments may include other sensors/switches (e.g., pneumatic, piezoelectric, etc.) configured to detect the presence of an object within the cup holder 20. [0025] In the present embodiment, once the controller 40 detects the presence of an object (e.g., beverage container) within the cup holder 20, the controller 40 will instruct a lighting assembly 42 to reduce the luminous intensity of the emitted light. As illustrated, the lighting assembly 42 includes a light source 44, a lit ring 46, and a dimmer circuit 48. The light source 44 may be any suitable device for generating a luminous output, such as an incandescent bulb, a light emitting diode (LED), a fluorescent bulb, or similar light emitting device. In the present embodiment, the lit ring 46 is optically coupled to the light source 44 and extends about the circumference of the cup holder 20. As will be appreciated, the lit ring 46 serves as a light guide, distributing the light from the light source along the circumference of the lit ring 46. Consequently, the lit ring 46 will emit a substantially even light about the circumference of the cup holder 20. Such a configuration may effectively illuminate the interior of the cup holder 20. As will be appreciated, alternative embodiments may include additional light sources 44 and/or lit rings 46 positioned circumferential and/or axially throughout the cup holder 20. Further embodiments may omit the lit ring 46, thereby directly illuminating the interior of the cup holder 20 with the light source 44.

[0026] In the present embodiment, the lighting assembly 42 includes the dimmer circuit 48. The dimmer circuit 48 is configured to vary the luminous intensity of the light source 44 based on input from the controller 40. For example, if an object is not present within the cup holder 20, the controller 40 may instruct the dimmer circuit 48 to illuminate the light source 44 with maximum intensity. Conversely, if an object is detected within the cup holder 20, the controller 40 may instruct the dimmer circuit 48 to reduce the intensity of the light source 44, or completely darken the light source 44, to reduce light reflection off of the object. Consequently, the dimmer circuit 48 may include a switch configured to transition between two or more levels of electrical resistance, thereby varying the flow of electricity to the light source 44. Alternatively, the dimmer circuit 48 may include a potentiometer configured to continuously vary the intensity of the light source 44. In certain embodiments, the dimmer circuit 48 may be configured to decrease the intensity of the light source 44 over time. For example, if an object is detected within the cup holder 20, the dimmer circuit 48 may gradually decrease the luminous intensity of the light source 44. In further embodiments, the dimmer circuit 48 may be omitted, and the controller 40 may directly engage or disengage the light source 44.

[0027] As previously discussed, the emitter 36 transmits a beam B toward the detector 38 across the diameter of the cup holder 20. If an object blocks the beam B, the detector 38 will transmit a signal to the controller 40 indicative of a detected object. Consequently, as a beverage container 50 (e.g., water bottle, hot beverage mug, paper cup, etc.) translates in the direction 52 toward the cup holder 20, the beverage container 50 will block the beam B. As a result, the controller 40 will detect the presence of the beverage container 50 within the cup holder 20 and send a signal to the lighting assembly 42 to decrease the luminous intensity of the emitted light. In this manner, reflected light off of the beverage container 50 may be substantially reduced or eliminated, thereby decreasing driver distraction.

[0028] FIGURE 4 is a cross-sectional view of the cup holder 20, as shown in FIGURE 3, having sensor activated lighting in a darkened state after insertion of the beverage container 50. As illustrated, the beverage container 50 blocks the beam B from traversing the diameter of the cup holder 20. Consequently, the detector 38 will send a signal to the controller 40 indicative of a detected activating object within the cup holder 20. The controller 40 will then send a signal to the lighting assembly 42, instructing the dimmer 48 to reduce the luminous intensity of the light source 44. As previously discussed, the dimmer 48 may completely darken the light source 44, instantaneously reduce the intensity of the light source 44, or reduce the intensity of the light source 44 over time. As a result, reflected light from the beverage container 50 may be substantially reduced or eliminated, thereby reducing driver distraction.

[0029] In sharp contrast, certain lighting systems may be configured to increase the luminous intensity of the light source when a beverage container is present within the cup holder. For example, U.S. Patent No. 7,354,181 discloses a lighting system configured to provide a lower lighting intensity when the cup holder is unoccupied, and to provide a higher lighting intensity when a beverage container is present within the cup holder. While such a configuration may enhance the visibility of the beverage container in low light conditions, the additional luminous intensity may distract the driver as the light reflects off the beverage container. Moreover, in certain such systems, the initially dark or dim light source is brightened when a container or the occupant's hand passes near the cup holder. Such transitions may themselves cause distractions, particularly when no beverage container is ultimately placed in the holder, but rather the movement was simply a gesture or inadvertent motion.

[0030] As previously discussed, the controller 40 may be configured to increase the luminous intensity of the light source 44 if a second activating object (e.g., occupant hand) is detected adjacent to the cup holder 20 despite the presence of the beverage container within the cup holder 20. In this manner, the visibility of the cup holder 20 may be increased as an occupant reaches toward the beverage container 50 within the cup holder 20. Consequently, the present configuration employs the second sensor 22 communicatively coupled to the controller 40. The sensor 22 is configured to detect the presence of a second activating object (e.g., occupant hand) adjacent to the cup holder 20. In certain configurations, the sensor 22 is configured to emit a field F and detect perturbations to the field. In this manner, the sensor 22 may detect the object even though the object does not contact the surface of the cup holder 20. The range of the sensor 22 may be particularly selected based on the application. For example, a sensor 22 positioned proximate to other controls may be configured to have a shorter range than a sensor 22 positioned in remote locations of the vehicle interior 12. As will be appreciated, the sensor 22 may utilize any of the previously described sensor configurations (e.g., capacitance sensor, ultrasonic transducer, optical transducer, etc.) for detection of the second activating object.

[0031] Further embodiments may employ multiple sensors 22 to enhance the accuracy of object detection. For example, certain configurations may employ multiple optical transducers to triangulate the position of the object in three dimensions. Such configurations may enable the controller 40 to determine whether the occupant hand is reaching toward the cup holder 20 or controls adjacent to the cup holder 20. Alternative embodiments may employ multiple sensors 22 of different types to ensure proper detection of the object. For example, certain embodiments may employ a capacitance sensor to determine whether an object is within the general area of the cup holder 20. If an object is detected, the controller 40 may activate one or more optical transducers to accurately determine the position of the object. Such a configuration may reduce power consumption and/or occupant distraction that may be associated with continuous operation of an optical transducer. While the present embodiment includes a discrete controller 40 within the cup holder 20, it should be appreciated that alternative embodiments may employ sensors 22 having integrated controllers. Alternatively, a vehicle controller positioned remote from the cup holder 20 may be configured to receive the output signal from the sensor 22 and operate the lighting assembly 42. It should be further appreciated that the controller 40 may include one or more solid state circuits and/or electromechanical relays, including controllers 40 that include only a single relay.

[0032] FIGURE 5 is a cross-sectional view of the cup holder 20, as shown in FIGURE 3, having sensor activated lighting in an illuminated state due to the presence of an activating object adjacent to the cup holder 20. As previously discussed, when an object, such as the illustrated occupant hand 54, enters the field F, the sensor 22 will generate a signal corresponding to perturbations to the field F. This signal will be transmitted to the controller 40 which will determine whether an object is positioned adjacent to the cup holder 20. If such an object is detected, the controller 40 will instruct the lighting assembly 42 to increase luminous intensity. In this manner, the visibility of the cup holder 20 may be increased when the occupant reaches toward the cup holder 20 in low light conditions (e.g., driving at night).

[0033] As previously discussed, the controller 40 is communicatively coupled to the dimmer 48 of the lighting assembly 42. When the controller 40 detects an object adjacent to the cup holder 20, such as the occupant hand 54, the controller 40 will instruct the dimmer 48 to increase the luminous intensity of the light source 44. In certain embodiments, the dimmer 48 may increase the lighting intensity over time. For example, if an object is detected adjacent to the cup holder 20, the dimmer circuit 48 may gradually increase the luminous intensity of the light source 44. In further embodiments, the controller 40 may instruct the dimmer 48 to establish an intermediate lighting level within the cup holder 20 when an object is detected adjacent to the cup holder 20. For example, if no object is present within the cup holder 20, the controller 40 may instruct the lighting assembly 42 to establish a first luminous intensity. If the beverage container 50, or any other object, is positioned within the cup holder 20, the controller 40 may instruct the lighting assembly to establish a second luminous intensity, less than the first intensity. Finally, if the occupant hand 54, or other object, is detected adjacent to the cup holder 20, the controller 40 may instruct the lighting assembly 42 to establish a third luminous intensity, greater than the second intensity, but less than the first intensity. Such a configuration may enhance visibility of the cup holder 20 without producing sufficient reflected light to distract the driver. In certain embodiments, the dimmer circuit 48 may be omitted, and the controller 40 may directly engage or disengage the light source 44.

[0034] Furthermore, once the controller 40 no longer detects the presence of the object (e.g., occupant hand 54) adjacent to the cup holder 20, lighting intensity may return to the darkened state if the beverage container 50 is present within the cup holder 20. Alternatively, if the occupant removes the beverage container 50 from the cup holder 20, the ambient lighting system may remain illuminated. In certain embodiments, the controller 40 may employ a time delay between detection of the occupant hand 54 and darkening the lighting system after the hand is no longer detected. Such a configuration may reduce the possibility of rapid changes in lighting intensity during periods when the occupant is removing the beverage container and the hand is not detected. While the cup holder 20 described above is positioned within the center console 18, it will be appreciated that additional cup holders employing sensor activated lighting systems may be positioned throughout the interior 12 of the vehicle 10. For example, such cup holders 20 may be located within the armrest 16, the seats 14, the door panels 24 and/or any other suitable location within the vehicle interior 12.

[0035] FIGURE 6 is a flow diagram of an embodiment of a method 56 for reducing luminous intensity of a storage compartment based on the presence of an activating object. First, as represented by block 58, an initial lighting intensity is emitted into the storage compartment. As previously discussed, the emitted light may be generated by a light source in optical communication with a lit ring disposed about a circumference of a cup holder. Next, as represented by block 60, the presence of an activating object within the storage compartment is determined. For example, an optical emitter may be employed to transmit a beam across a diameter of the storage compartment, and an optical detector may detect the presence of the activating object if the object blocks the beam. If the activating object is not present within the storage compartment, the light intensity will remain at the initial level. However, if an activating object is detected, light intensity will be reduced, as represented by block 62. In this manner, light reflected from the object within the storage compartment may be significantly reduced or eliminated, thereby reducing driver distraction.

[0036] As represented by block 64, the presence of a second activating object adjacent to the storage compartment is determined. For example, an occupant hand may be detected approaching the storage compartment. When such an object is detected, the lighting intensity will be increased, as represented by block 66. In this manner, the visibility of the storage compartment may be enhanced when the occupant reaches toward the cup holder 20 in low light conditions (e.g., driving at night). However, if no second activating object is detected, the lighting intensity will remain at the reduced level.

[0037] While only certain features and embodiments of the invention have been illustrated and described, many modifications and changes may occur to those skilled in the art (e.g., variations in sizes, dimensions, structures, shapes and proportions of the various elements, values of parameters (e.g., temperatures, pressures, etc.), mounting arrangements, use of materials, colors, orientations, etc.) without materially departing from the novel teachings and advantages of the subject matter recited in the claims. The order or sequence of any process or method steps may be varied or re- sequenced according to alternative embodiments. It is, therefore, to be understood that the appended claims are intended to cover all such modifications and changes as fall within the true spirit of the invention. Furthermore, in an effort to provide a concise description of the exemplary embodiments, all features of an actual implementation may not have been described (i.e., those unrelated to the presently contemplated best mode of carrying out the invention, or those unrelated to enabling the claimed invention). It should be appreciated that in the development of any such actual implementation, as in any engineering or design project, numerous implementation specific decisions may be made. Such a development effort might be complex and time consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking of design, fabrication, and manufacture for those of ordinary skill having the benefit of this disclosure, without undue experimentation.