LEDs have revolutionized automotive lighting. You see this when you look in your rearview mirror. Nowadays, you can see sharply delineated eagle eyes, cat's eyes or circular angel eyes illuminating the road behind. Audi, of Ingolstadt, Germany, has always been particularly keen on innovative lighting technology. In 2004, it was the first car manufacturer worldwide to introduce LED daytime running lights, in its premium A8 model. Only ten years later, daytime running lamps have become standard fittings for mid-range models, and increasingly for compact cars, too. The same applies to adaptive forward lighting, cornering lights and automatic headlamp leveling.
Headlamps Must Be Distinctive
The new importance of lighting technology for the automotive industry is shown by the increasingly extrovert design of headlamps. Instead of being uniformly round, inconspicuous fittings in the front end of cars, headlamps are now available in distinctive, sculpted forms thanks to LED technology. Focusing on their brand image, manufacturers want to make sure that, at night, the headlamps immediately identify what model of car is lighting up the rearview mirror.
It is now even possible to control front-lighting systems with the aid of camera sensors. Positioned on the inside of the windshield, the camera sensor supplies information about traffic conditions to a control unit, which adjusts the headlamps to provide the best illumination for the particular conditions, without dazzling oncoming drivers or those in the vehicles ahead. These kinds of adaptive lighting systems greatly enhance traffic safety at night, but are still relatively expensive and thus seldom seen in small cars.
The automotive industry is also paying particular attention to interior lighting. In modern cars, the passenger compartment is marked out with indirect light from LEDs: light strips, illuminated areas on the dashboard and backlit switches, handles and pedals not only facilitate orientation, but also create pleasant lighting conditions and an ambiance conducive to night-time driving. Optical components collect, guide, direct and shape the light generated by LEDs to provide the requisite light distribution pattern.