Automotive lighting systems gearing towards vehicular safety

2nd January 2020
Lanna Cooper

Early automotive lighting solutions and vehicular systems were much simpler than the ones available at present. Cars had fewer switches, directional lights switched on focused on the desired spot and should the bulbs fail, horns from passing vehicles would alert the drivers that they were about to be blindsided. However, earlier car lighting systems were significantly less reliable than the new automotive lighting solutions of the present, which meant cars were considerably less safe.

Defective bulbs or lighting in the current scenario are nearly non-existent, particularly with innovations like LEDs making the rounds.

The automotive lighting market has undergone significant evolution over the years. Exterior lighting functions of a vehicle have not seen much change in terms of functionality as opposed to interior lighting.

Once considered to be an exclusively luxury car feature, cars with advanced interior automotive lighting systems are becoming more and more common. For instance, the introduction of RGB-LEDs has given drivers to light up their car interiors to match their moods, clothes or even tiny personal details like nail polish colours.

Automotive lighting systems comprise of various signaling and lighting devices incorporated or mounted on the front, rear, sides or even top of a vehicle. These lights are responsible for two main functions; to enable the driver to see the road ahead in the dark, and to improve the vehicle’s visibility for other drivers, particularly in dark or poor visibility conditions.

Rising concerns regarding road safety

Automotive lighting systems demonstrate great potential in improving road safety conditions. Lack of vision coupled with high vehicle speeds during the nighttime can lead to calamitous results.

In fact, the American Automobile Association has claimed that vehicle headlight quality is a prominent factor in road mishaps, as poorly maintained or worn headlights emit only about 20% of light as compared to new headlights. Failing and worn headlights are a contributing factor in nearly 50% of all road accidents occurring in the night.

The role of automotive lighting is not just to improve the driver and occupants’ visibility in a vehicle, but also to make the vehicle more visible to passing cars. In recent times, this role has evolved, becoming an integral component in maintaining the safety and aesthetics of a vehicle. Headlights and tail lamps serve as vital alert mechanisms for the vehicle and other road users while providing vehicles with a distinct brand identity.

The method of visibility provided by automotive lighting systems has also changed in recent years, thereby amplifying the importance of design in these components. For instance, in the present scenario, the onus is on smart solutions like AFS (Adaptive Front lighting Systems) and ADB or adaptive driving beam solutions to reduce glare.

Furthermore, rapid advancements in LED technology, such as optimisation of system costs, standardisation, enhanced thermal management, and simpler assemblies are making these devices more cost-effective, which means they are no longer limited to the premium vehicle class, unlike xenon lighting systems.

Prominent players in the automotive lighting industry such as Osram are investing heavily in R&D endeavors to make strides in these domains and improve vehicle lighting technologies in the years ahead.

Advancements in automotive lighting technologies

Modern automotive lighting systems are becoming a mega-trend across the world. Drivers and motorists are showing a growing propensity towards innovative lighting trends, owing to the anticipation of better vehicular security, improved performance and attractive design.

Vehicles in general are witnessing a massive transition, in terms of all aspects right from design to functionality. Electrification, digitisation, smart automotive systems, among others are just a few of the many trends taking over the automobile industry. One of these trends is a complete makeover of interior and exterior vehicle lighting systems.

LED developers are making great headways in the creation of high current LEDs, which is likely to open up numerous business avenues for industry participants. For example, Osram Opto Semiconductors has recently developed a lighting prototype featuring a single LED chip, which can emit white light at a 1400 lumen beam. This LED can reach a luminous intensity of nearly 200 mcd/m², at a wattage of just under 22W. This intensity indicates the fact that this LED displays luminance nearly three times brighter than regular LEDs which have been used in headlight systems thus far.

Another innovation emerging as the 'next big thing' in automotive lighting since the advent of xenon, halogen and LED technologies is Laser light. This new trend has the potential to reshape the future of headlight performance and design.

The future of smaller and highly efficient headlights is a distinct possibility due to laser lights. Laser diodes are considered to be remarkable owing to their impressive performance and miniscule size. A single laser diode can create a marked luminous flux on just a few thousandths of a millimeter.

Osram is making great progress in the development of laser automotive lighting systems. The laser full beam technology, for instance, is based on advancements in Osram’s Specialty Lighting. This technology has given eminent automobile models like the Audi R8 LMX, BMW i8 as well as the BMW 7 series a range of up to 600m, which is nearly double the distance offered by existing LED headlight technologies.

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