I was surprised when the first car with LED headlamps was unveiled in 2007. Even though the LEDs were only for low beam, I hadn’t expected it so soon. My first reaction was that LED headlamps would be confined to premium cars for more than a decade, because of the high R&D and production costs. I was mistaken; LED headlamps arrived much sooner on midrange cars. Less than five years after that first LED headlamp, Seat presented their Leon with full LED headlamps at the 2012 Mondial auto show in Paris, and that was quickly followed by the Mondeo and more; in North America, the new 2014 Toyota Corolla, a high-volume popular-price car if ever there was one, launched with LED low beams as standard equipment.
Then in 2013 when Dr. Huhn spoke of the matrix beam launch at the end of the year on the A8, I was also surprised by the early arrival of this technology in production. My immediate reaction that time, too, was that the matrix beam would surely grace only premium cars for at least a decade. I was mistaken again; midrange cars with matrix beams have arrived less than three years after the A8 launch.
So now it’s clear: we’ve been so starstruck by the amazing innovations on high-end cars that we haven’t talked and listened enough with the lighting managers of generalist cars, who have been busy cooking up innovations of their own. Sure, most innovations arrive first on premium cars—and that makes it all the more appropriate that we congratulate lighting managers like Carlos Elvira, Thorsten Warwel, Gunnar Koether, and Laurent Serezat who have convinced their management to go for full LED headlamps on mass-market cars…and now Ingolf Schneider, who’s convinced his project director at Opel, surely with great difficulty, to OK the matrix beam (and its added cost) for the new Astra. He’s done it, and now surely more popular-price cars will come with matrix beam. See details about the new Astra in this week’s news.
But while we’re at it, we mustn’t neglect rear lights. When AFS was defined more than 10 years ago, we also talked about ARS, advanced rear lighting systems. Since then, AFS has evolved and morphed into today’s increasingly intelligent and polyvalent adaptive driving beams, but there have been few innovations at the rear of the car. There are a few variable-intensity systems, and an increasing variety of sequential turn signals, but that’s pretty much it so far. Dynamic intensity is important, but it’s not enough. We have to integrate perceptibility and detection considering surrounding luminance, traffic density, velocity, rain, fog, bright sun, and other conditions to augment and improve the safety performance of vehicle rear lights.
In the styling differentiation of rear lights, too, we must make progress. The latest concept rear lamps with OLED, presented by BMW and Audi, are headed in a good direction. Maybe we will soon see the new A8 equipped with OLED as predicted by Ulrich Hackenberg, the car’s technical development chief.
In any event, surely the world’s automakers’ lighting managers will carry on providing the stuff of our dreams…and bringing it to reality faster than we expect!
DVN Editor in Chief