Although safety demands that a car’s lights meet tight legal requirements, vehicle manufacturers can still use lighting to make their models look distinctive and give them personality. LED technology plays a major role in adding this extra bit of soul to car design.
For the last twenty years, car headlamps have been more than just lights. They have become an integral part of the vehicle’s design and character, often enabling it to be recognized in both the dark and daylight. Look at the Mini Cooper’s Union Jack rear lights, unmistakable indicators of the little Brit’s identity.
Engineers and designers work together with light to bring more soul to our cars, something made possible largely by LED technology. That is because LED chips have a light-emitting surface area of less than 1mm2, opening up new possibilities in design, performance and miniaturization. LEDs also generate little heat. These properties mean car designers can give free rein to their imagination, using as many LEDs as they wish, introducing new materials and even locating lights in places that were previously off-limits (such as on wings, hoods and so on). Better still, almost anything can be made into a light source with LEDs. Starting from this premise, Lumileds has pioneered new, entirely flexible 3D light sources that adapt to all types of bodywork and contours found on a car. The idea is to create an almost-infinite range of light-based signatures that extend beyond vehicle lighting to the car as a whole. Enough to inject real soul into the vehicle without compromising on safety, as the color options available for front and rear 3D LED lights are suitable for all external signaling functions.
LED technology means that light design is now well and truly part of automotive design. And leading engineers and automakers will not stop there when the possibilities are so numerous. In less than a century, static lighting has become ultra-intelligent and, having turned digital, is now ready for a new era. For example, Audi, a trailblazer in high-performance lighting, now equips its AI:CON model with entirely digital display surfaces in place of headlamps and conventional lighting clusters. By so doing, it aims to increase the pixel count of these ‘screens’ so that the car becomes infinitely customizable, even acquiring a human dimension that enables it to communicate with other road users. In essence, car headlamps in vehicles produced nowadays are no longer just for illumination but are also digital screens that can project messages, lighting effects and graphics—as well as being enablers of unique car design.