LED: The Future of Automotive Lighting

Mon, 09/01/2014 - 13:15

Vehicular lighting has come a long way since its advent in the 1900s when candles illuminated the way for nocturnal drivers. Today, high-tech LED lighting is commonplace in automotive lamps, as lighting set makers are driven by demand for efficient, safe lighting solutions combined with greater styling flexibility. LED lighting was first used in automotive lighting for Center High Mount Stop Lamps (CHSML) in the 1980s, and although its initial adoption has been slow, LED headlamps have gradually been used with greater frequency as accessibility to the technology has increased. Currently, 20 vehicle models in circulation have incorporated LED headlamps, ranging from luxury models like the BMW i8 to more affordable cars like the 2014 Toyota Corolla. Even within the LED lighting segment, different grades of technology are in use, with all-LED models contending with hybrid headlights that use LED low beams and halogen high beams.

LED lighting offers a longer service life, vibration resistance, and shallower packaging compared to most bulb-type assemblies. Evidence has shown that safety is also improved due to LED’s faster lighting times. Conventional brake lights like incandescent bulbs require 250 milliseconds to reach 90% intensity, while LED lamps rise to full intensity 100 milliseconds faster. Paolo Bortolan, President and CEO of Osram Mexico, asserts that the best advantage of LED is that its design offers a combination of flexibility, efficiency, and security.

Osram provides lighting technology to major set makers like Hella, who in turn supply leading OEMs like Audi and Mercedes. For premium car makers that can charge premium prices, the latest in LED technology makes clear sense, with Hella’s Mexico President Ignacio Moreno Betanzo explaining that “LED lighting lasts much longer. Even visually, a car looks much more luxurious with LED lighting. It is not only a question of energy saving, but also of safety. Better lighting simply creates a safer car.” LED projector headlamps are becoming ubiquitous in cars like the Audi A8 but more affordable options pick cheaper reflector designs. Bortolan argues that LED lighting will become much more widespread in the next decade, although Osram is not abandoning traditional lighting solutions like halogen. “We should not make the mistake of thinking that LED lighting is the solution to every single problem that exists in lighting. Current traditional lighting is of the highest standard today.” Osram is not seeking to drive the adoption of LED at all costs, but rather offers all its available products to set makers, which in turn leaves it up to OEMs to decide which lighting solution is the most appropriate and viable for each of the particular models in their stable.