In future, car headlights will be able to work with the same technology as the one used in digital projectors. Digital Micromirror Devices (DMD) and powerful laser diodes are opening up many new options for car lights.
For anyone who doesn’t know, American BMW drivers like to call their treasured vehicles “Beamers”. Today’s story is not about the cars from Munich though, but about a technology that a company from the Bavarian capital also has a hand in, namely “beamers”, the German word for projectors, for which Osram provides the light sources. They’re the things that are used to treat relatively large groups of people to exciting PowerPoint presentations, or that serve as modern projectors in cinemas. Some people even have them instead of TVs in their homes. And developers in the car industry now even see projectors as headlights in cars.
Not all types of projector will meet the requirements of car lighting though. The current predevelopment stage focuses on what is known as Digital Micromirror Devices. They use several million tiny mirrors which, controlled via electrical impulses, either allow light to be emitted, or not. The light itself is currently still produced by LEDs. Because of the high luminous flux required, laser diodes will probably be used though. Osram is a leading manufacturer of both light sources.
Headlights with DMD laser technology will not only be able to create a virtually unlimited number of light distribution patterns but will also be capable of projecting additional information onto the road. For instance, arrows for navigation or warnings are being considered. Obstacles will be specifically illuminated and hence easier to see. This already works with matrix systems, but DMD technology has a far better resolution. A thousand times finer, to be precise. Projector technology using DMDs is still a long way off, but experts are making up ground. Apart from the desire for more light, the requirements for use in cars are still causing problems. A projector in a conference room doesn’t need to work even close to zero degrees Celsius. In cars you’re looking at minus 30. A cinema projector doesn’t need to fear splash water – car headlights do.
It’ll be exciting to see which car manufacturer will be the first to go into series production with the new technology and when. Only one thing is clear. It will debut on a flagship car. And the new light will come anything but cheap.