Automotive lighting technologies have been evolving gradually, moving past halogen-based system to light-emitting diode (LED) solutions
In order to drive efficiencies of vehicle systems, there has been a push to lower power and weight consumption as well as reduce emissions. Automotive lighting is playing a significant role in vehicle design distinction as well as acting as an enabler of future technology trends such as autonomous cars. Auto Tech Review caught up with Arjun Jain, Business Head, Electrical/ Electronics, Varroc Group (L) and Todd Morgan, Senior Vice President, Global Product Development, Varroc Lighting Systems (R) to understand about the developments happening in the automotive lighting space.
EVOLUTION OF LIGHTING TECHNOLOGIES
There has been a strong push in the automotive lighting space towards lowering power consumption, weight consumption and emissions. The next effort has been on the styling front, with the auto industry witnessing a strong drive towards LEDs. A shift from Halogen to LED can drive substantial energy savings. It has been found that customers too are willing to pay the premiums associated with the technology. Customers in general are also looking for more personalisation and more styling aspects. For example, customers are opting for lower profile headlamps; thus, eliminating the need to package in multiple reflectors. The LED technology is poised to be a big move going forward.
On the styling side, Morgan said people are looking for more aesthetically pleasing lamps. With electric vehicles (EVs) becoming more popular, there are new dimensions to play with. For example, without the need of grilles for air-intakes, designers get a new canvas to play on. Morgan said lighting can be used to increase personalisation and can also be used like a communication tool.
From an Indian perspective, there is a need to improve efficiency and weight. Jain highlighted the need for localisation within geographies in order to ensure affordability. For India and the rest of the world, he believes the question is not what comes after Halogen or LED but what is the next stage of LED? Jain said this is where a lot of the company’s energy has been focussed in recent times. Increased penetration of LED lighting technologies in two-wheelers can also be observed.
There is a lot of demand from customers for LED technologies, even if they are not full LED headlamps. This is primarily due to the aesthetic appeal of LED products. With competition in the four-wheeler market intensifying there is a need to differentiate vehicles and make them more aspirational, and LEDs help address that aspect, said Jain.
GLOBAL & LOCAL TRENDS
As far as automotive lighting is concerned, there were bigger differences between India and other western nations five to six years back. But this is changing; there are no compromises on quality, and customers are still asking for more features. For the local market and the global market, the aim is to bring innovation to the mainstream and provide value. The Indian market though is still cost-conscious. For instance, automotive lighting systems with 1.3 mn pixels that are required by customers abroad, may not necessarily be the right fit for India, Morgan pointed out.
One of Varroc’s premium products, for example, goes into the Bentley Continental. Morgan explained that the idea is to take such innovations, optical systems and principals, drive the cost down and try to replicate them or apply them in the Indian market. A great example is of organic LEDs. Varroc developed a proprietary technology called Surface-LED that appears like an organic LED and uses the LED source at a much lower cost. In the future, when considering adaptive driving beam (ADB) for India, it will not be about 1.3 mn pixels.
With many megatrends affecting the way the automotive industry is evolving, there are a few trends that will have a larger global impact on the lighting space. There is anticipation of increasing digitalisation. Varroc is focussed on implementing systems, where there will be no moving parts and different functions will be applied to these systems. The focus in the future will be on improving driver safety and comfort. These systems going forward will be adapted to be more sensitive to sensors and cameras. Morgan stated it is possible to explore infrared technologies to improve the distance that cameras can see. Integration of sensors into lamps is another crucial factor as the position of headlamps is strategically convenient for radar, LiDAR and cameras. There is potential to make radar, LiDAR and cameras offer more value and drive cost down, noted Morgan.
Varroc is also looking at innovative ways to provide functionality, complement and integrate sensors, potentially doing some level of fusion. With more sensors in the car, there is a tremendous amount of data running on the network, and for Varroc, the objective is to send out better quality data instead of sending more data.
Varroc is currently the world’s sixth largest supplier of lighting systems. For the Indian market, there is a significant movement from halogen to LED, and Jain believes the penetration of LED technologies will go up in a gradual manner over the years. Globally, Varroc is a strong player in the EV space and for EV makers effective LED solutions are the need of the hour. This movement towards LEDs is promising and this is what the company is looking to take advantage of, Jain signed off.
TEXT: Joshua David Luther
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay