News > The automobile at the dawn of enlightenment

The automobile at the dawn of enlightenment

 - 21/06/2018

Car headlights that shine on a zebra crossing to help pedestrians cross the road or highlight obstacles by the side of the road and tail lights that welcome the driver by flashing up their first name… Our car lights will soon do far more than just light up the road.

"We are in the process of evolving from lights that are purely technical to lights that communicate with their environment,” reported Christophe Le Ligné, head of R&D for visibility systems at French automotive supplier Valeo.

In a dark test tunnel in its research facility, the automotive supplier is testing its products of the future.
A stopped car, equipped with sophisticated LED lights, projects a beam onto a zebra crossing when a person is detected by the side of the road. This is to indicate to the pedestrian that they have been detected and that the car is giving way for the the pedestrian. At present, the pedestrian waits before crossing to check that they have eye contact with the driver, however with the advent of driverless vehicles, the need for new systems has become apparent.

Assisted by a camera, the model tested can project all sorts of information onto the asphalt, such as information panels or lines to highlight the direction of an upcoming bend. It can also “overexpose” a parked vehicle to alert oncoming drivers.
These new functions will be hitting the roads from 2020 thanks to progress in LED technology.

- Security at stake -
This lighting revolution is also responsible for the emergence of new anti-glare systems, which are already a standard feature on premium models equipped with a front camera.
They make it possible to drive with high beam permanently on without dazzling oncoming drivers. The camera detects oncoming vehicles and the headlights automatically dim the zone around these oncoming vehicles, so as to not blind them.
And let’s not forget, that even without this technology, LED headlights, which already equip nine vehicles out of ten, consume four to five times less electricity than traditional halogen headlights.

- "Brand assertion" -
Future generations of lights will also make it possible to display text or logos on the tail lights, for example, to welcome the driver by flashing up his or her first name when they open the doors or to warn the vehicle behind that a pedestrian is crossing the road or that the car intends to park.
These new codes will require common international standards.
As driverless vehicles hit the roads, interior lighting will also play a more important role in the well-being of drivers, thus freed up from driving to take part in other activities while “motoring”.
Car lights are already a vital component in automobile design and an “essential means of brand assertion”, which explains why car manufacturers are investing ever increasing sums in this sector.
In this fast-expanding market, Valeo is in fierce competition with three other major players: the Japanese group Koito and the German firms, Automotive Lighting and Hella.

(Photo: bgton /