News, Outdoor, Transport

Can the colour-changing lights in this tunnel REALLY make it safer to drive through?

Tests show the dynamic lighting system could improve safety in the Hondsrug Tunnel In the Netherlands

The traditional approach to tunnel lighting has been to avoid distracting the driver at all costs. So when lighting artist Titia Ex proposed a dynamic, colourful treatment for the new Hondsrug Tunnel in the Dutch city of Emmen, her plan was met with initial scepticism.

Wouldn’t a striking design impair safety? The municipality put the concept to the test in a driving simulator at Delft University of Technology, and the results were surprising. Instead of feeling threatened and distracted, drivers felt ‘welcomed’ by the bold shapes and bright colours and found the experience ‘pleasant’. And because the reason behind many tunnel accidents is that drivers feel insecure, the lighting installation could make a positive rather than negative impact on safety.

The 700 luminaires are embedded in the 12 modular elements, based on dolmens which were once a feature of this landscape. They feature red, green and blue LEDs which are all individually addressable. A pre-programmed palette of colours gradually turns into a different palette as you drive through, with the program adapting to the traffic’s speed, usually about 50 kilometres an hour. The basic program’s lapse of light and shade is, both horizontally as well as verticallproy, flowing and gradual. Titia Ex says the lighting transports travelers back to the era of the dolmens, with organic shapes, and guides visitors into the future of urban light design.


Titia Ex will speak about this project at the first Road Tunnel Lighting conference in Barcelona on Thursday 8 and Friday 9 October. The event is free for specifiers, tunnel operators and consultants working in the field. To register, visit