LEDs Light the Way for Automotive Industry

It’s a familiar experience — it’s late at night and you’re driving along a dark, curvy road. You take a turn around a corner and all of a sudden an oncoming car practically blinds you with its high beam lights.

Thanks to the help of LEDs, that problem could soon be eradicated entirely. LEDs are quietly heading up a revolution in the automotive industry, leading to new vehicle designs and providing enhanced nighttime vision and safety for drivers.

There’s no mistaking the glow of an LED headlamp in the newer automotive models, especially in comparison to the yellow tinge of their older counterparts. LEDs are even serving as identifiers and differentiators between different makes and models.

For instance, there’s no mistaking the distinct shape of Audi headlights:

Audi

Or the four circles on BMW models:

BMW

Because they are smaller, run cooler and use less energy than traditional light bulbs and standard automotive headlamps, LEDs are catching on in the automotive industry — much like they are gaining popularity in commercial and residential uses.

But these LEDs aren’t just for looks and show.

For instance, when combined with cameras, these “smart” headlights are more than just a standard set of high beams and low beams. Instead, they can continuously alter light patterns to adjust to the immediate road and weather conditions. The system is so good at not shining light on vehicles traveling ahead of it that the high beam can remain on and adjust itself, even if eight cars are in front — giving nighttime drivers a better, safer experience.

If Americans are looking to reap the benefits of this sort of smart technology, they may have to wait a few years. Unfortunately, all cars sold in the United States must adhere to a specific light pattern, so all models are fitted with standard headlights.

Automakers are even projecting that a time will come when headlights will be able to project patterns like a foot path on the road to help pedestrians cross the street, or even lines to the left and right of the vehicle as it passes through a construction zone to avoid any hazards.

But until then, we can look in awe at the European cars and their “smart” headlights.

LEDs In the Spotlight @CES 2013

Switch 3-Way LED Light Bulb

Every January, hundreds of thousands gather in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show.  One of the highlights of the show has been the ongoing competition for the biggest HDTV as manufacturers one-up each other on LED-based flat screen TVs. This year, we’ll take a look at how that competition is going and the other products where LEDs are making a splash.

The First Three-Way LED Light Bulb

The Switch 3-Way LED Light bulb was named one of the best innovations at CES.  It is the first LED light bulb to provide three levels of light and is set to replace a 25/50/75-watt incandescent. Switch says it will be available in April 2013 and may cost as much as $60.

Audi and LED Headlights

Audi leads automotive manufacturers in bringing LEDs to their cars, most notably the A8.  2013 is no different.  This year Audi introduced the Matrix LED high-beam headlight.  The Matrix looks like a regular LED headlight, but it uses a camera to detect other cars and pedestrians, shift default to a brighter high-beam function or break in the lights forward beam so as to not blind oncoming traffic (Yay!).  This dynamic high-beam capability doesn’t come with moving parts (like other competitors), yet can aim the beam around corners (cool).  The new A8 will debut the Matrix LED high-beam.

4K Ultra HDTV

The big news for CES in televisions was 4K Ultra-HDTV (ultra high definition flat screen). The 4K stands for the 4,000 pixels or 4x the resolution of the current 1080p resolution LED TVs currently on the market.  Some of the 4K Ultra-HDTV manufacturers will be using LEDs like Sharp and Sony, others will also have 4K offerings using OLED like Sony and Panasonic.

This is great, but currently there isn’t any 4K definition content available for consumers.  Sony Pictures Home Entertainment also announced that they’ll have 10 “Mastered in 4K” titles available this spring – like The Amazing Spider-Man™, Total Recall, The Karate Kid, Battle: Los Angeles, and The Other Guys.   So with Sony’s OLED-based 84-inch XBR-84X900 4K Ultra HD TV reported to cost $24,999.99 and Westinghouse’s 110 inch behemoth 4K TV topping the scales at $300,000, spending thousands on one right now is kind of … silly.

In more realistic news, LG Electronics announced that all of its LCD TVs will be LED-based from now on.  Sharp showcased their 6, 7, and 8 series of Aquos LED TVs in 60-. 70-, and 80-inch after having displayed a 90 inch last year.

For Further Reading

CES Innovation Awards , http://www.cesweb.org/Awards/CES-Innovations-Awards.aspx

Car and Driver, Audi at CES: Driverless Auto Parking, Matrix LED Headlamps, Next-Gen Infotainment, 3D Audio [2013 CES], http://blog.caranddriver.com/audi-at-ces-driverless-auto-parking-matrix-led-headlamps-next-gen-infotainment-3d-audio-2013-ces/

PC World, OLED and 4K at CES 2013: The fantasy and the reality (video),

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2024911/oled-and-4k-at-ces-2013-the-fantasy-and-the-reality-video-.html