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OSRAM automotive expert Richard Lothholz on the lighting revolution in cars
A lot has happened in the field of automotive lighting in recent years. Modern technologies such as LED, OLED and laser are very much on the advance. Richard Lothholz, Global Head of Sales Automotive Lamps and LED at OSRAM, answers questions about the development of automotive lighting technology.
The development of lighting technology in cars was relatively slow between the era of petroleum and the era of xenon. It seems now all of a sudden that it is coming on in leaps and bounds (LED, Matrix LED and laser). Are there from your point of view any technical and/or economic reasons for this?
First of all, you should know that LED and technologies which are related to this such as OLED or laser are in fact taking over the field of lighting as a whole – so LED is not a purely automotive phenomenon. Despite this, LED-based technologies do have special strengths due to which they are predestined for use in cars. First of all: LED light is extremely controllable. So like Matrix lights, you can illuminate individual areas in a very targeted manner, or not as the case may be, if for example you want to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic. Secondly: the colour of LED light can be changed. That is especially important inside the vehicle. Thirdly: LED light is energy-efficient. This will be an important argument in electric cars where every kilometre of range and thus every watt of energy used counts. We have however been seeing continuous development over the years – LED headlights are nothing new, but are attracting broad interest at the moment. Xenon lighting is even nowadays still an attractive and sought-after optional extra for many drivers.
How do you assess the further development of the LED headlight with regards to the spread of its use in cars? Will LED completely replace xenon as the top option? Will LED headlights also become standard in the small and price-sensitive category in the future?
Cars as standard always have basic equipment and one or more upgrades for lighting as optional extras. Nowadays, the basic equipment usually comprises halogen lights and xenon as an optional extra. Xenon is already provided as basic equipment for certain cars. But we will certainly be seeing a significantly higher share of LED headlights as optional extras over the next few years – either as normal full LED headlights or as Matrix lights in the higher vehicle categories.
How do you assess the future role of laser high beam? So far, this technology has been limited to luxury cars and is only offered by two car manufacturers. Will this change? Or will the further development of LED technologies ultimately make laser obsolete? Is Osram currently working on further development of this technology?
We think that the future of lighting is manifold. There will certainly be more cars with laser on the roads – initially mainly in the premium category. Laser technology is still at the start of its technical development and still has enormous potential – nevertheless, the standard solution of the future will certainly be LED technologies. BMW for example presented its BMW M4 Concept Iconic Lights in spring at CES in Las Vegas which were also equipped with laser. What pleases us is: We are currently the only manufacturer whose laser module has been used in mass-produced vehicles.