Over the years, cars are getting innovative and smarter. Like yesterday we shared how Jaguar introduced the Bike Sense to make roads safer for cyclists. On board computers, sensors and radars have taken over some of the driver responsibilities like for the Blind Spots alert. These technologies are just an aid and guide to driver and the disclaimer for all assisted features reflects that proper judgement, procedure and safety checks should always be completed by a driver before taking any action. Still these new active and passive safety systems have drastically reduced the fatalities and scaled down the seriousness of injuries.
One major component over the last decade or so is the exterior lighting. Night time driving is a challenge and a major safety hazard. The number of injuries and fatalities during the night time are far more than those during the day time despite lesser traffic. When a lighting engineer designs a lighting fixture for the vehicle, the basic requirement is “See and Be Seen”.
This one basic component of the vehicle saw revolutionary changes whatever brand of cars we see. From basic simple sealed beams to halogen reflector headlights, from projectors to bi-xenon and LEDs, and now more advanced and intense LASER and OLEDs.
Laser headlights are most recently introduced, and BMW i8 is the first production car to have laser headlights. Other German cars like Audis and Mercedes have developed prototypes and production units as well. The new lighting technologies are more energy efficient, lighter and smaller. Also due to material flexibility in design, more modern and irregular shaped can be achieved rather than conventional round headlights.
When you think BMW, or want to visualize one, there are two iconic features; the kidney grill and double round halo headlights commonly referred to as the angle lights. BMW is keeping the same heritage and even after decades, BMW still uses double headlights with round ring.
At the recent Consumers Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, BMW unveiled it laser light and OLED technology known as “ICONIC LIGHTS”. The production ready concept was shown installed on a BMW M4. The headlights contains a laser light which is blue in color but a phosphor plate inside the light converts it to a bright white color which replicates the color and temperature daylight. The beam is ten times more powerful than Xenon or LED, and can project light more than 600 yards ahead of the car.
The headlights are adaptive and gets signals from car navigation system as well as from the infrared cameras and radars, which in result control the beam pattern. The smart headlights prevents the oncoming traffic or the vehicle ahead getting dazzled by laser beams by spotting them and rearranging the beam pattern. In fact, the dynamic ability of these lights even can spot objects completely in dark and 110 yards away by use of infrared cameras and night assist system. This feature can help drivers spot pedestrians and avoid animal collisions by spotting the danger with a beam of light.
The concept Iconic Lights have a “visionary” system as BMW call it which consists of “High Power Laser” diodes. This system projects driver information on the road ahead of driver so that driver can concentrate more on driving, just like the Heads-Up Display. Beside laser headlights, BMW also showcased the OLED tail lights. Ordinary LEDs produce point light source while OLED lit up uniformly over the entire surface. OLED is very thin (about 1.4mm only) and can be molded into any shape even in three dimensional light source. Also, OLEDs can be activated separately and the intensity of discharge and color pattern can also be controlled. (The Samsung Galaxy series smartphones use OLED in their displays)
Presently, the laser and OLED look like technologies from science-fiction movies and are very expensive, but over the course of few years, these will become a standard features of our cars.
Below is a 5-minute video presentation by BMW, which is a must watch.