LED Lighting Changing the Auto Industry

Posted by Shelby Klick on Jun 15, 2015, 8:38:00 AM

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LED lights are being rapidly developed and changing the automotive industry.  This new lighting system will not only create an individual look to each make and model, but will be smaller, run cooler, and use less energy.  Advanced LED technology will make driving at night safer but it may take time before the United States changes their strict regluations on automotive lighting. 

LED Makes Driving Safer

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LED headlights can emit light at 5,500 Kelvin.  Kelvin (K) is a unit of measurement used to describe the color of light output. The higher the Kelvin value, the closer the light’s color is to actual sunlight.  LED headlights emitting 5,500 K would be similar to driving in daylight.  Not only will this make the road more visible for the driver, it will create less eye strain.  Drivers will be able to see more and react sooner. LED taillights also turn on faster and are brighter, giving tailing drivers more time to see brake lights and react. 

Advances Made in Europe

 

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LEDs have the ability to be packaged in many different designs because they are much smaller than standard automotive lighting systems.  New designs can be seen in the BMW’s four circle design headlights or Cadillac Escalade’s vertical red strip of taillights.  

In G.M.’s European division, Opel, has taken advantage of the LED technology and has created Adaptive Forward Lighting Plus (AFL Plus).  AFL Plus combines LED lights and camera to determine the road conditions and will adjust to ensure safer night driving.  The AFL Plus that can produce nine variations of beam patterns by using a rotating drum inside a xenon headlamp.  Their newest version of AFL Plus will be able to produce 256 beam patterns

Audi is also innovating LED technology with their laser high beam.  This lighting system allows drivers to leave high beams on when traveling around other vehicles.  The system adjusts and does not shine on other traveling vehicles. 

Vision for the Future

Opel is developing a system that will track the driver’s eye movement with a camera inside the vehicle and adjust the headlights accordingly.  However, exterior cameras and algorithms will have to ensure that the headlights do not change when the driver looks at something inside the car or a billboard.

Audi hopes to design headlights that will project patterns on the road.  These projected images could be a light the pathway for a pedestrian crossing the street or give the driver guide lines through construction zones or other constricted roads. 

Organic light emitting diode (OLED) technology is still in early developmental stages with a low light output and a high cost but the idea is promising.  Manufactured in thin sheets, OLED lights can be placed anywhere on the car’s body.  Imagine the entire right side of the vehicle illuminating as a turn signal instead of a single light.  Space used for current automotive lights can be freed up for other uses or could allow a different design of vehicle. 

Slow to Change

The models that utilize LED lights overseas are fitted with standard headlights when sold in the United States.  This is because the US has strict regulations on the patterns and shapes of headlights.  Currently, lights are allowed to rotate when turning a corner, the pattern of the light beam is not allowed to change shape. However, American manufacturers like Chrysler are interested in creating systems similar to the adaptive driving beam. 

The Society of Automotive Engineers are developing a set of standards to present to the National Highway Safety Administration to encourage a rule change.  However, change in regulation could take years.  Once approved, it would be a while before seeing cars with advanced LED technology on the road like in Europe. 

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Topics: LED Lighting

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