The age of enlightenment

As car technology continues to evolve at an astounding rate, one of the things manufacturers are focusing on, in regards to car safety, is the design and development of lighting. As car lighting is set to get increasingly more sophisticated, bodyshop magazine looks at what effect this will have on the repair industry.

One manufacturer leading the way in car lighting is BMW, the premium car maker previewed its new lighting signature on the new BMW 4 series with new laser lights front and rear on the M4 performance coupe. Laser lights are already standard on the BMW i8 supercar, but at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the brand revealed a concept version of the M4 with the latest development of the lighting tech. The BMW M4 Concept Iconic Lights uses lasers to project the main beam 600 metres down the road – twice that of conventional headlights – with an automatic selective beam anti-dazzle feature that cuts out some of the light to prevent blinding oncoming traffic.

Developing

Audi is developing advanced car lighting systems using organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology. This is already opening up exciting new possibilities, given that organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are made from organic material and, as opposed to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), can light up large areas equally. They can be used, for example, in the interior or for rear lights.

As part of the ‘OLED-3D’ research project run by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Audi, in co-operation with Automotive Lighting, Philips, Merck and the University of Cologne, has produced a rear light with 3D OLEDs for the first time and fitted it into an Audi TT. The large, three-dimensional OLEDs in the rear lights are an excellent example of how OLEDs can be used for exterior vehicle lighting.

Audi is aiming to create an attractive and intelligent light design for the future. Lighting that changes as the driver moves, that accentuates the most important contours of the vehicle and provides subtle lighting in the interior for occupants getting into the vehicle – these are just a few of the possible scenarios.

Identify

Ford is also developing new lighting technologies that will enable drivers to more easily identify potential hazards, including pedestrians, cyclists and animals.

Ford’s camera-based advanced front lighting system can widen the beam at junctions and roundabouts to better illuminate hazards that are not in the direction of travel. New spot lighting technology helps draw the driver’s attention to pedestrians, cyclists and even large animals in the vehicle’s path or even just off the road.

The system also uses global positioning system (GPS) information to better illuminate bends and dips on a chosen route. Where GPS information is not available the technology uses a forward-facing video camera mounted in the rear-view mirror base to detect lane markings and predict the road’s curvature, using the information to illuminate the area more effectively.

In a further evolutionary step, in those instances, the camera stores the information in the navigation system. When next the driver uses the same road again, the headlights adapt to the course of the road automatically to better light the way.

Locate

Spot Lighting – currently in the pre-development phase with Ford engineers in Aachen – uses an infra-red camera in the front grille to simultaneously locate and track up to eight people and bigger animals, including larger dogs, at a range of up to 120 metres.

Road safety reports show that on unlit roads there is a significantly increased likelihood of accidents, and that such accidents could involve personal injuries, or fatalities (data suggests 40% of all fatal accidents occur at night). As technology progresses, vehicle manufacturers are finding more ways of improving road safety, which will in-turn reduce the number of road traffic accidents.

While from a safety point of view this is great news, it does mean that bodyshops that want to repair vehicles with advanced lighting systems need training and equipment to deal with these new systems and equipment. Yes, it might all point towards less severe accidents on the road but already accident profiles are changing and having the capabilities to manage these technologies is key to future success.