Experts agree that a glare-free high beam represents the greatest advance achieved in automotive lighting for the last few decades. Its advantage lies in the fact that it is always able to put the greatest possible amount of light onto the road. In contrast, conventional low-beam lights plunge large areas of the road and its surrounding area into darkness whenever an oncoming car approaches. In the same situation, a glare-free high beam fully illuminates the car’s own lane and shoulder, only masking out the vehicle on the other side of the road. It works the other way round as well: the driver of a vehicle ahead is not dazzled, but the opposite side of the road is still fully illuminated.
A camera is used to control the headlights, deciding where light can be projected and where it would dazzle others. Today, matrix headlights employing LED technology are the method of choice. Each light-emitting diode (or module with several LEDs) is responsible for distributing the light to a particular area of the road. Areas can be illuminated or not by activating or deactivating these individual LEDs or modules. Although premium manufacturers like Audi, BM and Daimler have been offering this technology for quite some time now, it was believed to be too expensive for smaller cars. Responsible for the higher costs are not only the LED headlights themselves but also other components such as the camera and controllers (not to forget the original outlay for software development).
Trail-blazers in the segment for smaller cars
Opel took the decision to offer matrix lighting in the compact class as far back as 2015. The Astra was the first car in this category to have it as an optional extra, costing around a thousand euros. That’s about the same amount buyers were previously paying to add xenon lights. Customers are clearly enthusiastic, with 20% of Astras in Europe being delivered with matrix lighting.
The light developers in Rüsselsheim are now one step further: the upcoming version of the Corsa will also be available with matrix headlights and a glare-free high beam. But nobody can seriously expect a vehicle in this market segment to have headlights with a similar performance to those installed in a higher-priced and much more generously-featured luxury car. As far as the matrix headlights are concerned, the differences lie mainly in the number of LED modules, supplied by Osram. Because the headlights in the Corsa have fewer modules than those installed in larger and more expensive cars, each module obviously has to cover more of the road. When another vehicle is detected in a module’s designated area, the whole area is masked out from light distribution. Experts refer to this as a somewhat coarser resolution.
Many more light distribution scenarios
In practice, a large number of different light distribution scenarios are possible, activated in a fraction of a second in response to changing traffic situations. Conventional headlights, of course, only have two possible light distribution settings, low beam and high beam, and drivers normally have to choose the one they want manually. This is why many drivers use their low beam headlights almost all the time. More precisely, less than 5% of headlight use in Central Europe is of the high beam variety. Among drivers with a glare-free high beam, however, this rises to 60%, without dazzling any other road user. This statistic alone shows what a contribution this technology is making to safety on our roads.