By Kamislav FADEL, Head of A.L./Automotive Lighting R&D
Get ready: the current balance of innovation, competitiveness and globalisation in our field is ripe for big changes. Automotive lights and signals are evolving at a fast and accelerating pace never before seen. Each new model release shows new lighting features.
In past times, the key innovation factor was performance; competition was focused on how to give the driver maximum light for the best possible safety. The progression of headlight bulbs, R2 followed by H1, H4, H7 and D2 defines the curve of what we have achieved in progressive lighting performance improvement.
By and by, styling began to exert more influence on car lights. This pushed the uptake of window-clear lenses and new technologies in optics and packaging, and introduced LED technology. Meanwhile, the R&D efforts of the major lighting suppliers were developing AFS technology. This enhances lighting performance and gives a substantial safety benefit for the driver. Meanwhile, lighting design is becoming a strong lever for brand and vehicle family identity and advertisement of the vehicle’s level of technical sophistication.
New factors in lighting design are linked to global concerns. The ecological trend is pushing the reduction of power consumption to reduce CO2 emissions. Forthcoming electric vehicles need careful attention to weight and packaging reduction with respect to available power to optimise the range and fit the decreasing available volume. In addition, competition among premium car makers is becoming stronger and stronger on advanced lighting technologies involving sophisticated electronics and lighting components and requiring even more resources and expertise in both conventional and novel lighting-related fields.
The big lighting suppliers have different solutions to these shifting market demands. All of them need to invest heavily in R&D to lead the trend. At the same time, most of them have to face the globalisation trend, increasing competition from low-cost countries, the drastic development time reduction and growing pressure on development costs. There is no single best solution, and suppliers’ various priorities and approaches will create unique technical cocktails. On the other hand, standardisation will be a great challenge.
Honestly I find this period very exciting with all the opportunities but also the threats that will come. I am convinced also that we will observe increasing market awareness of the pivotal role that headlights and rear lights are assuming in vehicle technology and design and, of course, in traffic safety.