Full headlights on road lighting

From oil lamps to halogen bulbs, LED guides or laser headlights, discover how lighting was and will always be at the heart of car design.

March 21st, 2017 | Innovation


In recent years, the evolution of headlamps has been considerable. The main reason? Preventing road accidents: safety is the number1 concern for most car manufacturers. The solution? Optimizing vehicles' exterior lighting which allows both to see and to be seen by other road users. And while autonomous driving remains the new technology in vogue, manufacturers have gone a long way from combustion lamps to laser and directional lights.  


If over the time, exterior lighting contributes to the design of the vehicle and allows brands to assert their identity, headlights remain light projectors that enable to see at night or under any driving condition. If filament bulbs remain the most popular due to their efficiency and cost effectiveness, these halogen bulbs have gradually been ousted by other technological solutions: LED, laser, OLED, Xenon, about which we are now going to tell you everything!


The xenon headlight appeared for the first time in the early 90s. Its bluish light makes it easy to differentiate from the yellowish halo of the halogen bulb. These headlights have a range of 722 ft. which reflects their quality and power. They also allow a better visibility for the driver as well as a sharper light beam compared to halogen lamps. 



Then comes the LED headlight – Light Emitting Diode – in the early 2000s, especially used for daytime running lights, (mandatory since 2011). Before that, this technology was mainly used for tail lights and turn signals because of their ultra-fast lighting and the many opportunities it offered to designers.



Today, LEDs headlights serve as a signature for manufacturers who make their models unique and easy to spot. It is also appreciated by electric car manufacturers because of their low consumption, which nevertheless requires multiplying their number to obtain a significant lighting. But that's not all!



Recently, the LED technology has been used extensively to develop intelligent lighting, widely appreciated by the automotive industry for the comfort and safety offered to the end-users. Intelligent Headlights, called matrix LED lights, adapt the light beam per the type of road, blocking out the light aimed at oncoming traffic. Zones, where there isn't oncoming traffic, remain lit, saving drivers ahead from being blinded when incoming cars arrive. Thanks to VRX it's now possible to simulate the detection system of other vehicles and to anticipate these –U shape-  shadow areas generated by LEDs headlights.  


Courtesy from Audi



Very quickly, however, the LED technology would start to become obsolete, because Audi and BMW are pulling hard to make a revolutionary technology happen: the laser. First, in terms of range, the laser will be able to reach 1970 ft., where the LED is limited to half as much, besides the fact that it is small enough to allow more shape styling, and the laser diodes can be integrated anywhere on the hood. The laser light is as much as 1,000 times brighter than LEDs while using about two-thirds of the power. Laser headlights are a small revolution which is still quite expensive for most vehicle manufacturer to take the plunge, but they will most certainly be one of the popular technologies for automotive lighting in the future. 



In perpetual quest for novelty in the automotive industry, Audi has been working on incorporating OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) into the matrix headlight technology. OLED is a flat light source allowing the diffusion of homogeneous light without requiring reflectors. Exploited to date mainly on the rear lights – and on an experimental basis – this technology tends to make the lighting more interactive and even playful. How? Thin and easily formable, OLEDs take up less space than LEDs and can be subdivided into many

small segments, controllable to effectively act as individual

light sources with different brightness levels. 



Automotive lighting still has many years ahead of it, and OPTIS still strives to support vehicle manufacturers in their quest for innovation. Every day we help them tackle their wildest challenges with ultra-realistic software solutions based on the laws of physics and optics, and make the safety of road users of today and tomorrow a priority.




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