Motorists are heading into a bright future, in the truest sense of the word: After the xenon reflector lamp, light emitting diodes (LED) are making inroads into the field of headlights. In the future, they will enable light systems that are more variable for greater vision and safety. In contrast to all other light bulbs in a vehicle, LEDs last for the life of the car, putting an end to “blind” or “one-eyed” cars as are often found during the annual light inspection. Since LEDs use less energy than conventional light bulbs, both operating and maintenance costs are lower. This is confirmed by light expert Dr. Tran Quoc Khanh, professor at the Institute for Electromechanical Designs at the Technische Universität Darmstadt: “Whereas halogen bulbs have a life expectancy of about 1,000 hours and xenon-filled bulbs around 2,000 hours, LEDs are good for 10,000 hours.”
The use of LEDs in main headlights requires complex control electronics that oversee all light functions. Continental has developed a corresponding control center that will go into production in 2011. This innovative light control device can regulate all light functions centrally. Initially, individual LED groups can be independently controlled in eight light looms, making it possible to get by more or less without any additional mechanics in shifting to the illumination appro
priate for a given road situation. The effect is far better than anything feasible previously with even the most sophisticated mechanical systems: special lights for driving on motorways or country roads, a smooth transition from low beams to high beams, perfectly illuminated curves, or enhanced vision at intersections. The illumination variations adapt to the respective situation in just fractions of a second.
The large dimming range and the speedy switchability makes LEDs predestined for use in what are called matrix headlights, according to Professor Khanh. Here, the control units can regulate the light cone in an even more individual manner: Left- or right-turn instructions from the navigation system take the form of headlight-projected signals on the asphalt. Or the system could trigger spotlight detection of pedestrians on the shoulder of the road up ahead. Admittedly, this expanded technology will still be a few years in the making, but Continental has already laid the groundwork for such features.
There is now practically no doubt that LEDs will be triumphant when it comes to front headlights: Analysts anticipate increases of more than 150 Percent for the next three years on the automotive market.