It’s likely to be the next big thing in car lights. Recently unveiled headlights with more than 3,000 light emitting diodes from Osram can specifically illuminate any part in front of the car or leave it dark. This makes it possible to create high-resolution glare-free high beam without any mechanical parts.

You can already buy glare-free high beam. The same goes for matrix lights. So what’s new about these headlights which have now been introduced by a consortium made up of Daimler, Osram, headlight manufacturer Hella, semiconductor specialist Infineon and the Fraunhofer Institute? Well, this is pixel light, which can be considered as matrix light with a much higher number of LEDs. While Vauxhall’s Astra illuminates the road with 16 LEDs per headlight and Mercedes’ current E-Class with 84, the test headlights which are close to production use a massive 3,072. Of course, individually they’re not as powerful as the ones in existing headlights. Taken together, they pretty much exceed everything that’s been around so far though. Each of the LEDs in the pixel light headlights provides a luminous flux of one lumen, totaling around 3,000. That corresponds to the level of xenon light which so far has been the benchmark in this category.

All bright things come in threes. Each of the three modules in Daimler’s pixel light test headlights houses 1,024 LEDs. A ball pen by comparison.
All bright things come in threes. Each of the three modules in Daimler’s pixel light test headlights houses 1,024 LEDs. A ball pen by comparison.

 

The high luminous flux is not the crucial thing about the system though. Each LED can be controlled individually. This means that a much greater variety of light distributions can be achieved than with matrix lights. For instance, an oncoming car will no longer have to be masked out as a whole “channel” as is the case with glare-free xenon high beam. The system can now focus on the windscreen, for example. And the driver ahead of you won’t be dazzled, but the road between the two cars will remain illuminated. A stereo camera controls these functions without drivers needing to do anything. They always get the maximum possible light without dazzling anyone. Glare for oncoming traffic is a lot lower than with conventional low beam, especially in bends. Because of the high number of light sources, the light is also very uniform. The chessboard effect which is sometimes noticeable in conventional matrix lights is, if at all present, only very weak.

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Modern pixel light headlights will no longer require any mechanical parts. Even the swiveling cornering lights can be switched on by selecting the required LEDs. Mechanical headlamp leveling can be replaced in a similar fashion.

Integrating more than 3,000 LEDs into just one headlight was a technical challenge. Such a big number can’t be wired in a conventional way. That’s why the LEDs from Osram are put together directly with a control chip from Infineon. The technology for this sophisticated connection was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute. 1,024 light emitting diodes have been combined in one array, with three arrays being used in one headlight. The light is projected onto the road using a lens, which, along with the entire integration into the housing, is provided by Hella.

Daimler is currently road testing the pixel light and has plans to offer it ex works in future.

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