Last week the SAE International Congress and Expo was held in Detroit. We’ll have a full report on the papers and lectures presented at the Congress and Expo available soon. But shortly before that event, the SAE Lighting Committee Spring meetings were held in San Diego. In addition to the expected content-dense discussion of matters of technical and legal prescriptions for automotive lighting devices and systems, the meeting was notable for something it lacked. There’s a task force convened to examine issues related to heat-induced degradation of optical materials used in close proximity to LEDs. This is a newly relevant topic, because the non-coincident emission of light (out the front) and heat (out the back) from LEDs means optical materials can be much closer to the light source than they ever could be with a filament or arc. This brings improved optical coupling for boosted system efficiency, but it also brings new modes of material degradation and failure. There’s no clear understanding of the extent and exact nature of the problem.
So what was lacking at the SAE meetings? A meeting of this task force! Members of the materials degradation task force came to the meeting empty-handed: either they themselves had no inclination to share what they know, or they wanted to but were forbidden by their managers. It seems the feeling is that discussing the matter would erode competitive advantage that may accrue to the company who figure out what the problem and its solutions look like. So as a result, the task force may be disbanded without ever having made a single bit of progress in its task.
Perhaps it is true that a few companies may indeed have as good a handle on the materials degradation problem as they appear to want to think they do. DVN has often commented on the unprecedented pace and scope of innovation in automotive lighting lately. Refusing to cooperate within a long-established collaborative context such as SAE may confer a short-term competitive benefit on a few companies, but it does not bode well for the quality of innovation in our industry as a whole. Without a robustly cooperative spirit and approach, such major milestones in automotive lighting as the sealed beam headlamp, the H4 bulb, HID headlamps as we now know them, and indeed the UN (formerly “ECE”) regulations themselves would not exist.
Daniel Stern, General Editor
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