Emerging technologies

OLED systems

OLED lighting is among the most advanced lighting technology now available. As well as being thinner, lighter and more flexible than LEDs (they can be about one-tenth of the thickness of LEDs), they also offer major energy efficiencies (as they produce less heat) and design opportunities.

The technology, which is already widely used in smartphones and televisions, uses stacked layers of organic compounds that emit light when submitted to an electric current. It boosts luminance efficiency and enables bendable displays as it reduces the light’s thickness and weight. This makes OLEDs ideal for lighting curved surfaces both in and outside vehicles.

Due to its high cost OLED is still largely restricted to the luxury market. However, the prospects are strong with estimates1 that the global automotive OLED market will reach 7.74 million units by 2019.

Among the most active players are Far East companies such as LG Chem, South Korea’s biggest chemicals company and the world’s largest manufacturer of OLED lights. Japanese companies such as Konica Minolta, Pioneer and Mitsubishi Chemical are also big players in this market.

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Laser lighting

Lasers open up new horizons in the design and performance of headlights, enabling lights to be designed to much smaller specifications and be more efficient.

One of the great advantages of laser diodes is their small size with one laser diode generating an almost punctiform luminous flux on a few thousandths of a millimetre, and giving off a brightness almost four times that of an LED2.

This means that headlights can be made even smaller in the future without having to compromise on light intensity. The primary benefit for drivers is that these headlights have the longest range provided by any current headlight technology, offering the driver improved visibility and safety.

The BMW i8 and the Audi R8 LMX were launched almost at the same time as the first series production vehicles with laser headlights. In 2015, the new BMW 7 Series also followed with a laser full beam based on developments by Osram Specialty Lighting. As a result of this laser technology the full beam of these vehicles has a range of up to 600 metres, double the distance of current standard LED headlights.

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Adaptive front lighting systems

One of the most important factors in mitigating driver fatigue and increasing safety during night driving is providing a well-illuminated field of view.

The use of matrix LED systems3 combined with camera and image processing functions has allowed for the creation of new lighting functions like adaptive front lighting systems (AFLS) and glare-free lighting.

AFLS optimises the distribution of light from the headlights according to driving circumstances, and is being increasingly adopted by all major automotive manufacturers.

Depending on vehicle speed and steering input, the system points the low beam headlights in the direction the driver intends to travel. The system illuminates a greater distance and more brightly compared to halogen headlights, improving the driver’s field of vision and visibility around curves and at junctions.

In particular the system helps to prevent drivers of oncoming vehicles from getting blinded when many people or a lot of luggage weighs down the back of the car, or when the vehicle position changes going over a bump or up a slope.

Glare-free lighting

The technology is increasingly used by OEMs. For instance Ford has developed a new glare-free high beam that avoids drivers having to dip their headlights by simply blocking those rays that would otherwise shine in the eyes of other road users.

The system works alongside the company’s AFLS which can adjust the headlight beam angle and intensity according to speed, light and steering direction.

It uses a windscreen-mounted camera which detects the headlights or taillights of vehicles and bicycles up to 800 metres away at night, and uses specially developed headlights to block light that could otherwise temporarily blind other drivers and cyclists.

Driving with high beam headlights enables drivers to see hazards in the road much earlier. Studies have shown that automated high beam headlights are activated up to 10 times more than when drivers have to switch to such a beam themselves.

1 Technavio, Global Automotive Lighting Market 2016-2020
2 Osram: Trends in automotive lighting
3 Yole Développement Automotive Lighting: Technology, Industry and Market trends – May 2016

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