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Automotive Product Finder Magazine | This is an exciting time for lighting in the automotive industry
This is an exciting time for lighting in the automotive industry
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The government is pushing for energy efficient vehicles and lighting system is playing a big role in this shift. Driven by government regulations for CO2 emission reductions, halogen lights is likely to be phased out with LEDs taking their place. The cost of a baseline LED lamp has drastically reduced, driven by more efficient LEDs, optical systems and price competition of the LED chips, says Todd C Morgan, Senior Vice President (Global Product Development), Varroc Lighting Systems - a premier developer and manufacturer of next-generation external lighting systems and vehicle control electronics for the automotive industry. With autonomous vehicles becoming a reality, he believes that the vehicle, and not the driver, will need to “see”, thus offering exciting new opportunity as lighting can complement ADAS sensors to help vehicles “see” better. In this interaction with Rakesh Rao, Todd Morgan explains the effect of changes in automotive industry on lighting technologies.
As the automotive lighting specialist, what does Varroc brings to the table for vehicle makers?
Our goal at Varroc Lighting Systems is to bring innovation to the mainstream. We work collaboratively with our customers even before the clay models of the vehicles are started. We help them understand the current and future technology trends. Working with OEMs early in the process allows us to help them optimise performance, appearance, and package space requirements and still meet their cost targets. This cost/performance optimisation also benefits our premium customers, allowing them to deliver additional functionality and creative styling to their vehicles.
Our broad customer portfolio and global reach are also key. We need to be present wherever our customers are developing and producing their vehicles. Our recent expansion activities in Brazil, Morocco, Turkey, Bulgaria, Poland and Chennai (India) are a few examples of where we have extended our global reach to support our customers where they need us.
The government is pushing for energy efficient vehicles and lighting system will have a role to play in this shift. How geared up is your company for it?
This is a key initiative at Varroc. We are already present on several current and upcoming all electric vehicles, so our focus on reducing power consumption and weight, without compromising performance continues to gain importance. Obviously, this is an important topic for EVs, but we apply the same design principles on vehicles with combustion engines to lower CO2 emissions. LED technology is of course a key part of all this, and we are getting more light than ever out of the LED chip.
We work hard on developing the most efficient optical systems to maximise the amount of light that is put on the road, and not allowing it to be lost and converted to heat. We are looking at new materials and processes for thermal management, to reduce the mass of our lamps as well.
How will your company gain from the rise in usage of LEDs in automotive lighting system?
LED technology allows us to deliver unprecedented levels of performance, safety, and design flexibility. OEMs are using lighting for their design signatures during the night as well as during the day, and this design attraction is adding an increasing number of vehicle variants, with enhanced appearance and functionality. Of course with the increased functionality, we are seeing an accelerated level of electronic content in exterior lighting.
The increase in electronic hardware may be obvious, but we also have an extensive level of software requirements in our lamps. New functions like Advanced Driving Beam (ADB) or MATRIX headlamps, “progressive” turning indicators, and welcome/goodbye animations all require software and controls. So LEDs have opened the doors to quite complex systems, but again, the focus is to deliver these technologies to our customers in a cost effective manner.
How important is the role of lighting in enhancing the auto exteriors?
This is an exciting time for lighting in the automotive industry. The interest really started to take off with the addition of Day Time Running Lamps (DRL) as a regulated function, and OEMs used the opportunity to use it as a signature. We are now starting to see animations used for welcome and goodbye as you lock and unlock your car. We will likely have the ability to personalise these kinds of features in the near future.
With the growing interest in ride-sharing and e-mobility, we can also imagine exterior displays or projected images being an interesting function as well. Of course, lighting will remain a highly regulated safety element on the vehicle, but we will definitely see an increasing amount of customisation and personalisation that will be possible.
What is the future for traditional and halogen lamps in automotives?
Halogen will phase out, and this is largely driven by government regulations for CO2 emission reductions. We are already seeing several mainstream vehicle lines that have completely removed halogen from their lineup. The cost of a baseline LED lamp has drastically reduced, driven by more efficient LEDs, optical systems and price competition of the LED chips. Halogen is still the lowest cost technology to put light on the road, but now LED headlamps are definitely within the reach of the most cost sensitive customers.
What are the emerging trends in automotive lighting (globally and in India)?
For headlamps, the accelerating migration away from halogen light sources to LED is definitely a game changer. We are also seeing more application of Advanced Driving Beam (ADB) or matrix functionality into B/C-segment vehicles. The premium segment is using higher resolution systems, some even have the ability to project movies with 1.3 million pixels. Varroc has developed some extremely good performing cost- effective solutions for ADB, which could be a nice fit for the cost-conscious India market. Lastly in the not so far future, you will see ADAS (advanced driver-assistance systems) sensors like RADAR, LiDAR, or cameras integrated into the headlamps. With autonomous vehicles becoming a reality, the vehicle, not the driver, will need to “see”, and there are some very interesting ways that lighting can integrate and compliment these technologies.
Signal lighting will also gain importance, as we look for ways of personalising and using lighting as a communication tool. We are looking at ways to project images on the road, as well as display technology that would function in the severe automotive environment. There will be more animation, and software present in our lamps of tomorrow. OLED has appeared on a few premium vehicles; however Varroc is patented a new innovation called Surface-LED that gives the appearance of OLED, but has improved the cost, reliability, and added design freedom by using LED light sources.
What are your growth plans in terms of new products and technologies?
Looking at the trends we have just described, our growth strategy will be focused on bringing these innovations that are mostly present in the premium segment to the mainstream mass-produced vehicles. Optimising the performance and looking for cost effective ways of delivering the technology. Our low-cost LED headlamp (OPTI-LED) and our “OLED-killer”, Surface-LED, are great examples of how we are able to do that. Electronics and software are a major element of our growth plans, both globally and in India. Controls are a key element in the total system that we design and deliver.
Lastly the integration of ADAS sensors and looking for ways that lighting can complement these sensors is an exciting new opportunity. We believe that no one technology is sufficient for an autonomous vehicle, and the four corners of the car, where the lamps are located, is a very strategic place to locate these technologies. We are actively working on new innovations in this field.
Varroc Lighting Systems
Todd C Morgan
Automotive Lighting System
Day Time Running Lamps
Advanced Driving Beam
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