A Half-Century of Vehicle Lighting Design
Front and rear lamps have long played a big part in the evolution of car design, influencing and being influenced by the form of the sheetmetal. The shape, contour, and design of the headlamps and rear lamps bring a showcase effect and make a major contribution to perceived quality of the vehicle as a whole.
Here we present significant design innovations, ten in front and ten in rear lighting, which have been particularly impactful on automobile styling evolution. We discuss the specialities involved—optics, thermics, electronics, testing, materials, regulations, light sources, and the like—which were often at the centre of the styling evolution typefied by each innovation we highlight.
Ten vehicle marques from Europe, America, and Asia are analysed, decade over decade, as to the evo-lution of their lighting components and systems.
In the story of vehicle lightstyling, two periods stand out as particularly important: The 1985–’93 timeframe starts just after the American mandate for standard-size-and-shape sealed-beam headlamps was finally dropped after over four decades, and ends just after ECE Regulations began permitting plastic headlight lenses. And the 2005–’10 timeframe saw LEDs break out from their former confinment to minor functions (CHMSL, dashboard indicators), first to DRLs and then to the main headlamp functions, allowing vast new design possibilities to radically change the appearance of cars.
We are now at the start of what surely looks like another significant timeframe in this arena. New lighting functions like Welcome and Farewell displays, dynamic signal lights, digital headlamps, OLED lamps, and light-based displays will once again take a lead role in unprecedented changes to car design.